Texas vs. St. Louis
Make no mistake: you are unlikely to see any games in this series played in less than three hours. That's a bad sign for fans, ratings, and starting pitching, but a good sign for the many sluggers ready to pound away on some of the more suspect pitching the World Series has seen in recent years.
Texas boasts hurler C.J. Wilson, but Wilson is no Cliff Lee and beyond that, the starting pitching can politely be described as solid but unspectacular. In the bullpen, things get decidedly better, and late inning pitching will be a major factor in this series.
The best chance for St. Louis would be to combat Texas' stout lineup with stellar pitching as San Francisco did last year, but this time around, the Cardinals can't match up with the likes of Lincecum and company. Still, St. Louis has managed to hang around all fall, steadily knocking off teams considered better. How? Better than average hitting (Pujols, Holliday, Freese, Berkman, etc.) and a bullpen that somehow found its way after a dismal regular season. Octavio Dotel helped solidify the setup innings and Tony LaRussa has demonstrated that he values wins over egos and won't hesitate to put any member of the bullpen in any situation he thinks gives his team an advantage.
The common theme of this series will be blown leads, and the victor will be the one able to shut down the rallies late. I see Texas as having the best potential to ward off late inning runs.
Just on a hunch, the only dominant performance by a starting pitcher I see happening is Colby Lewis in Game 2. I expect Lance Berkman to have a good series and Josh Hamilton to knock out a couple long balls with all of the focus being paid to Nelson Cruz.
Home field advantage in baseball may not seem like a lot, but 23 out of the last 30 World Series winners had it. Still, while the Cardinals may get a small boost in Game 1, I'm not sure it will be enough to silence the Texas bats in a seven game series.
I made the mistake of picking Texas last year, but despite the magic St. Louis has displayed this October, I have to make the same pick again.
Both teams are polished enough that experience shouldn't be an issue. What's more of an issue is talent, and that's where I think Texas shines. Pitching will be a wild card, but if Pujols struggles, St. Louis will have a tough time winning. If Hamilton struggles, Cruz can carry the team, or Beltre, or Andrus, or Kinsler, or the veteran Ranger Young, etc etc. Hitting was a problem for Texas against the Giants last year, but against St. Louis, they will finally put it all together.
Need some specifics? St. Louis will eke out an ugly Game 1. Lewis will shut down the Cardinals to even the series, then the Rangers will win high scoring affairs in Games 3, 4, and 5 with the Cards scoring enough in two of those games to win if it weren't for the near double digit totals given up by St. Louis pitching. Here's hoping I'm wrong and the series stretches to seven dramatic games, but I'm picking Texas in a short, low rated World Series.
Prediction: Texas in 5