Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. The Hall of Fame worthy trio is back for one final run at the World Series. After winning the World Series in 2011, the crew has been reunited and looks rejuvenated on this last dance. St. Louis’ (93-69) first task is to get past the curse breakers of the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies (87-75). Philly has made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 where, ironically en route to that World Series they were eliminated by the Cardinals in the Division Series.
But who is going to win this time around?
Starting Pitching: Phillies
Game 1 and 2 starters have been announced for both teams so far and despite St. Louis’ surprising choices of Jose Quintana (Game 1) and Miles Mikolas (Game 2) and not Adam Wainwright, Philly takes the cake here. The one-two punch of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola can steal games for you in a three game series and masterclasses from them could be the Cardinals downfall.
Bullpen Pitching: Cardinals
Seranthony Dominguez and Zach Eflin highlight a bullpen for the Phillies that has been frankly their downfall the past couple of years. While improvements have been made, injuries and lack of high end, true shut down guys gives the edge to the Cards. Especially since St. Louis features fire-baller Jordan Hicks (high of 102mph), Jack Flaherty and Giovanny Gallegos, a staple for their pen; they win this duel. Not to mention underrated arms like Andre Pallante and Ryan Helsley.
Both teams entering this series have elite lineups filled with big hitters throughout but the Cardinals have the edge here. Philly’s top of the order featuring Schwarber, Hoskins, Harper and Realmuto have hit many home runs this year but strikeout often and can be shut down by opposing pitchers. St. Louis on the other hand has less outstanding names, but a more consistent scoring touch. Highlighted by Goldschmidt, Arenado and the red hot Albert Pujols, look for underrated names like Nootbaar, Donovan, Edman and (when healthy) Tyler O’Neill to make a name for themselves.
To sum up this battle in two words, Nolan Arenado.
The perennial gold glove highlights a solidly defensive infield and outfield that boasts the best fielding percentage in the league. Combine that with Yadi Molina behind the plate and no one compares to the Cards defensively. Especially since Philly has struggled on defense this year, particularly dealing with Kyle Schwarber and other less than optimal defensive players in the field.
Oliver Marmol was given the head coaching job for St. Louis this past offseason and is the youngest manager in the MLB currently at 35 years old. Yet, despite being younger than his top stars, his players trust him and he looked great throughout his first season, leading his squad to the NL Central title.
Philadelphia however, after a slow start, fired coach Joe Girardi and placed current interim manager Rob Thomson in charge. A Sarnia, Ontario native, Thomson reignited the fire in his team and just managed to squeak them into the last wild card spot. He’ll try and earn his way into a full-time gig with the team next year.
Series Prediction: Cardinals in 3
Despite the Cardinals winning their division and the Phillies just managing to grab the final spot, this series will be tight. Philly is built for a three game series as each of their starters can steal you a game at any point and many mashers who can give you instant offense. But I think St. Louis will still be able to keep things close and take over in the late innings at home against a questionable Phillies bullpen and keep the last dance moving forward.