October 18, 2011
SI.com's resident experts provide their picks for the 2011 World Series.
World Series: Rangers vs. Cardinals
Tom Verducci
There hasn't been a World Series Game 7 since 2002, the second-longest drought in baseball history, but that long-awaited event is finally in the works between two evenly matched teams. Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is on the cusp of breaking out as the difference-maker.
Jon Heyman
The Rangers and Cardinals are very similar with extremely deep and dynamic lineups, hot and talented bullpens and questions about their starting rotations. Texas seems to be a fairly strong favorite, but St. Louis will push them to the limit.
Joe Posnanski
I have picked against the Cardinals every series so far, so why stop when I'm on a roll. I don't think I've gotten a single thing right this entire crazy postseason, and the only good thing I can take from it is that baseball remains as baffling to me as ever. Forced to choose, I think the Rangers bullpen and Josh Hamilton will make the difference.
Joe Lemire
Both clubs feature powerful offenses with dominant bullpens and recently shaky starting pitching, and the postseason has been defined by timely homers and length from the relievers. If that pattern holds, Texas, which has a little more pop in its lineup and more of a track record from its bullpen, has the slight advantage.
Albert Chen
Give the edge to the Cardinals because they have the best starter in the series (Chris Carpenter), home-field advantage, a bullpen that matches up well against Texas' righthanded mashers, and catcher Yadier Molina, who can shut down the Rangers' aggressive ground game.
Ben Reiter
These excellent clubs deeply resemble one another. Both have powerful lineups, the best in their respective leagues, that got healthy at the right time. Both have ace-less rotations whose shortcomings were mitigated by sharp midseason bullpen renovations on the parts of their general managers. The Rangers, though, are Mitt Romney to the Cardinals' Jon Huntsman. They just seem a more formidable contender -- their lineup slightly deeper, their rotation a bit better, their bullpen more genuinely dominant. This, in fact, is the series in which the Cardinals' pitching staff, bailed out by surprising performances from previously unheralded relievers thus far in the playoffs, will be exposed.
Cliff Corcoran
These two teams used very similar formulas to win their respective pennants, but the Cardinals have homefield advantage and can slug with the Rangers in Texas, particularly with righties Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, NLCS MVP David Freese and likely DH Allen Craig getting to face so much left-handed pitching. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter (2-0, 3.71 ERA) has pitched better than the Rangers left-handed number-one C.J. Wilson (0-2, 8.04 ERA) this October, and Tony La Russa has done a better job of distributing his bullpen's workload. I've picked against the Rangers twice already this postseason and been wrong each time, but picking against the Cardinals, after the way they have played over the last two months, seems every bit as foolhardy.
Joe Sheehan
The bullpens and bats have been the story to date, but the Rangers have a small edge in the rotation that should keep them from burning out their bullpen here. That will be the difference in what is a very tough series to call.
Mel Antonen
Pitcher Chris Carpenter tips the balance to St. Louis. The Cardinals' offense, more patient with better discipline than the Rangers' lineup, will have no trouble scoring against Texas' struggling lefties. Nothing bothers the Cardinals, who were down 10 ½ games in late August but rallied to not only make the playoffs but to beat the Phillies and then the Brewers twice in Milwaukee, scoring in 11 of 18 innings at Miller Park. The Cardinals' rotation will bounce back, and the bullpen will be fine.
Ted Keith
At some point this postseason, starting pitching has to matter (right?). That bodes well for the Cardinals, whose ace, Chris Carpenter, was a World Series hero in 2006 and has been much better of late than Rangers ace C.J. Wilson. St. Louis boasts a lineup of AL-quality depth, has a bullpen that is just as deep and talented as Texas' and has already beaten the two best teams in the National League. Why should the AL's second-best be any different? Look for the Redbirds to have one more happy flight home to St. Louis, where they'll clinch their 11th World Series title.

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