World Seres Odds Update: Sox Still Favored
After two ugly defensive games, the Fall Classic heads to St. Louis where the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals will play three consecutive games. Game One featured ugly defensive play from the Cardinals, specifically in the earlier innings as the series opener quickly turned into a blowout. The Sox did a nice job of putting the ball in play against Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright and forcing the Cardinals' below average defense to make plays, which they frequently failed to do.
Pete Kozma was the main scapegoat for the lackluster defensive performance, committing two errors, though he was the second best defender on the Cardinals during the regular season in terms of FRAA, behind only Yadier Molina. The only offense came from Matt Holliday's solo home run off of Ryan Dempster, which resulted in little more than requiring closer Koji Uehara to begin warming up.
On the Red Sox side, Jon Lester threw extremely well with 7.2 innings of shutout ball, concerns about doctoring the ball aside. Since neither the Cardinals nor the league found any evidence suggesting Lester doctored the ball, I believe these concerns should be completely disregarded and ignored. On the offensive side, David Ortiz hit a home run and was inches away from another, while Dustin Pedroia reached base twice.
The Cardinals responded defensively in Game Two, reducing their total errors from three to one while the Red Sox took their turn making costly defensive miscues. Both Boston errors came on the same play in the top of the seventh, where a sacrifice fly to left field eventually resulted in two Cardinal runs. Left fielder Jonny Gomes caught the ball and threw home, but his throw was slightly off the mark and got past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who received the first error on the play.
Reliever Craig Breslow was backing up home and retrieved the ball only to throw it over the head of Third Baseman Xander Bogaerts and into the stands, allowing the second run to score. Those two runs turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead which the Cardinals would add to a batter later on Carlos Beltran's RBI single.
Michael Wacha remained dominant on the mound, though he did issue a postseason high two runs and four walks to go along with six strikeouts in his six innings of work. Fellow rookies Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal combined to throw three scoreless innings of relief; the former recording three K's in two innings and the latter striking out the side in the ninth to finish the game. From the Red Sox' side, John Lackey turned in another quality outing despite his final line being tarnished by two inherited runners scoring, both on the two-error sacrifice fly. Craig Breslow had his first disappointing outing of the postseason, but fellow relievers Junichi Tazawa, Brandon Workman, and Koji Uehara finished the game without further trouble.
The Sox continue to push back Clay Buchholz's start, going from the Game Two starter in the ALDS and ALCS to the Game Four starter in the World Series due to both ineffectiveness and health concerns. Instead Jake Peavy will oppose the Cardinals' Joe Kelly in the pivotal Game Three, with Buchholz facing Lance Lynn in Game Four. We can expect the rotations to reset following Game Three, which means Jon Lester will face Adam Wainwright in Game Five, John Lackey will face Michael Wacha in Game Six, and Jake Peavy will face Joe Kelly in Game Seven.
First Base remains a situation to monitor for both teams during the portion of the series played under National League rules. Red Sox Manager John Farrell has said that David Ortiz will start Game Three at first, though his continued presence in the starting lineup is largely contingent on his bat continuing to outweigh his poor defensive skills. Mike Napoli will likely be relegated to a pinch hitter and defensive replacement role, the latter of which he performed well in his first full season at the position.
The Cardinals will have to make a similar decision between starting Allen Craig or Matt Adams. Craig was the starter for the majority of the year, though he injured his foot in early September and returned to the lineup at the start of this series. In his stead, Adams has performed well occupying the fourth spot in manager Mike Matheny's lineup throughout the NLDS and NLCS while providing left handed power and capable defense at first. There is concern regarding how well Craig's foot will hold up in the field, which when combined with Matheny's likely desire to play the lefty Adams against the righty Peavy, leads me to believe that Adams will start and Craig will pinch hit.
The Red Sox held a 72.07% chance of winning the World Series following their Game One victory, but that number has shrunk to 54.77% following the Cardinals' Game Two victory. The 17.3% that the Sox' win probability has lessened after only one loss shows the significance of each game in the World Series, a significance which will only increase in each subsequent game.
The updated odds for the amount of games the series will go remains roughly the same, with the obvious exception that a sweep is no longer possible for either club. A six game victory for the Sox remains the most likely outcome at 21.06%, while a six game victory for the Cardinals checks in at 16.38%. The series could end in St. Louis if either team takes all three games at Busch Stadium, but the odds of either team doing so are low. The Sox hold a 12.93% chance of celebrating on the road while the Cardinals hold only a 12.03% chance of celebrating a World Series Championship on their home field for the second time in three years. The playing of a Game Seven has become more likely due to the split in Boston, with the Sox' holding a 20.78% chance and the Cardinals' 16.78% of winning a series that goes the distance.