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The Strike Zone

World Series Game 1 preview: Cardinals at Red Sox

Jon Lester, Red SoxJon Lester started Boston's most recent World Series game, in 2007, on the road; he'll start their next one tonight at Fenway Park. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)

Cardinals at Red Sox
Start time: 8:07 p.m. ET
TV: FOX
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (2-1, 1.57 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (2-1, 2.33 ERA)

If the Red Sox can't beat Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha at least once in the World Series, the Cardinals will win it in a maximum of six games. Given how well Wacha, St. Louis' Game 2 starter, has pitched this postseason, Boston's best chance to break serve may come in this game, which will be Wainwright's lone road start in this series.

As I've written before this month, Wainwright has been dominant at home this year but human on the road. Including the postseason, he has posted a a  3.31 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 18 road starts. Wainwright held the Dodgers to just two runs in seven innings in a losing effort in Game 3 of the NLCS, but in his other two starts this postseason, both at Busch Stadium against the Pirates in the Division Series, he allowed a total of two runs in 16 innings while winning twice. Wacha, meanwhile, has allowed just one run in 21 innings this October. Wainwright's lone road start thus stands as the only time in six starts this postseason that either he or Wacha has allowed more than one run, and Fenway Park is a far less friendly ballpark for visiting pitchers than Dodger Stadium.

This will be Wainwright's first career appearance at Fenway, and it will also be his first career appearance against the Red Sox in any venue. The latter could help him, because the only active Boston hitters to have faced him before have combined for a .169/.229/.369 line in 70 plate appearances. None of those PAs belong to David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, all of whom will be getting their first look at one of the game's top pitchers.

Of course, that cuts both ways. Jon Lester's sole career appearance against St. Louis came way back in 2008. Only three active Cardinals have ever faced him (Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina) and they have combined for just 12 career plate appearances against Lester, the last coming in 2009, when Holliday was with the A's. St. Louis will add an extra righthanded bat against the lefty Lester in this game with the return of Allen Craig, who will start at designated hitter, but Craig had a reverse split during the regular season in part because he drew just four walks against lefties all year.

Lester hasn't been nearly as dominant in his home ballpark this season as Wainwright has been in his, but he did post an ERA 1.11 runs lower at Fenway than on the road during the regular season, and his two quality starts this postseason have both come in Boston. In his last six home starts, all but one of them against a contender, Lester has gone 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.

As was the case in each of their previous three World Series confrontations, the Red Sox were the top run-scoring team in baseball this year and the Cardinals had the NL's most potent offense. In their first five home games of this postseason, the Sox have averaged six runs scored. Still, this game projects as yet another low-scoring affair in a month that has been full of them.

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