Interleague play has been around for 15 years, but this year's World Series opponents, the Rangers and Cardinals, have met just once before, in a three-game series in Texas in 2004. They thus enter the 107th World Series with a relatively clean slate, adding something of a throwback quality to the series for those fans who accuse interleague play of destroying the novelty of potential World Series matchups.
These teams took very different paths to the postseason -- the Rangers won the AL West by 10 games while the Cardinals staged one of the great comebacks in baseball history to steal the National League wild card from the Braves on the final day of the regular season -- but both used the
• Prior to his Game 3 start in the NLCS against the Brewers, the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter had allowed just one run in 42 innings in his last five starts on normal rest, including three shutouts, two of which came in games which prolonged the Cardinals' season. He gave up three runs in five innings in that Game 3 start, but he wasn't hit that hard. Just one of the six hits he allowed went for extra bases (a Mark Kotsay home run), and just one of the five singles he allowed came on a line drive. He walked three, but one was intentional. The biggest red flag was not his performance, but the fact that he came out of the game after five innings and 89 pitches and received treatment for elbow inflammation. Carpenter said he wouldn't be taking the ball for this game if his arm wasn't healthy, but with 254 1/3 innings on that elbow already this season and cold, blustery weather expected Wednesday night, the Cardinals will have to watch their ace closely. Another quick hook from manager Tony La Russa wouldn't come as a shock.
• Carpenter was the only member of the Cardinals' rotation to complete the fifth inning in the NLCS against the Brewers.
• Mike Napoli is the only member of the Rangers expected Game 1 lineup who has faced Carpenter since 2004. Napoli went 3-for-3 with a home run off Carpenter as a member of the Angels last May.
• Texas' C.J. Wilson didn't allow a run in 4 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers until rain interrupted the fifth inning, but when play resumed, he retired just one of the four men he faced. In his other two starts this postseason, he has allowed 14 runs (12 earned) in 11 innings while allowing a whopping six home runs, three in each start. That sudden case of gopheritis comes after he allowed just 16 home runs in 34 regular season starts and just one in his final five starts in September. Four of those six home runs were hit by just two men, Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach in Game 1 of the Division series, and Tigers outfielder Delmon Young in Game 5 of the ALCS, both right-handed hitters. The other two were hit by lefties Johnny Damon and Alex Avila, thus doubling the number of home runs he'd allowed to left-handed batters all season. Those three home runs in Game 5 of the ALCS came on the road, where he'd allowed just six home runs all season. Five of the six postseason home runs Wilson has allowed came on fastballs that missed their intended location, the other was on a hanging curve.
• Only two members of the Cardinals expected starting lineup have ever faced Wilson, and neither Lance Berkman, who also faced Wilson in last year's postseason as a member of the Yankees, nor Ryan Theriot has had much success against him. The only other Cardinals to have faced Wilson in the major leagues are former American Leaguers Nick Punto and backup catcher Gerald Laird.
• The Rangers aren't losing much by being forced to play without the designated hitter. All it really robs them of is what was effectively a complex platoon of lefty first baseman Mitch Moreland and righty-swinging catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Moreland is just 2-for-19 in this postseason. Torrealba has started just three of the Rangers' 10 postseason games and, while he did go 3-for-3 in Game 3 of the ALCS, has reached base on just one other occasion this postseason. Both rode pine in Game 6 of the ALCS so that Endy Chavez could be the Rangers' DH. Michael Young will play first base in St. Louis, just as he did in three of the Rangers' last four games, while Mike Napoli will continue to be the Rangers' everyday catcher after starting behind the plate in nine of their first 10 games this postseason.
• C.J. Wilson has just 10 professional plate appearances. In those 10 PA, he has two sacrifice bunts, just one strikeout, and a triple.
• The Cardinals are expected to make two changes to their playoff roster. Deposed fifth starter Jake Westbrook will replace Kyle McClellan in the bullpen, both players confirmed on Thursday, while second baseman/outfielder Skip Schumaker is expected to replace rookie outfielder Adron Chambers.
• Schumaker went 6-for-10 with two doubles in the Division Series against the Phillies and drove in the only run in the Cardinals' 1-0 victory in Game 5 of that series, but strained his right oblique in the third inning of that game and was thus left off the Cardinals' NLCS roster. The Cardinals' second base platoon of righty Ryan Theriot and switch-hitting Nick Punto went 3-for-25 in his place in the NLCS, though in Theriot's defense, he also went 6-for-10 with two doubles in the Division Series.
Look for Theriot and the lefty-swinging Schumaker to platoon at the keystone in this series, with Theriot getting the majority of the playing time because of the left-handedness of the Rangers' rotation. The left-handed Chambers had appeared in all but one of the Cardinals' games this postseason as an in-game replacement (twice entering a game as a pinch-runner, and four times each as a pinch-hitter and late-inning defensive replacement). Look for Punto, who is 3-for-21 with 11 strikeouts this postseason, to fall back into that role.
• Westbrook is reportedly nursing a broken toe and, despite being on the Division Series roster, hasn't seen game action since his final start of the regular season, in which he gave up five runs in 2 1/3 innings to a replacement-level Astros lineup. Still, his ability to induce ground balls could come in handy in Texas's homer-happy home ballpark, or at least that seems to be the Cardinals' thinking.
• The Rangers may opt to leave Koji Uehara off their roster in favor of fellow right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, who says he is recovered from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of action for the last month. Uehara, one of the Rangers' big deadline additions, dominated in relief for the Orioles, but has proven homer-prone as a Ranger, giving up eight home runs in 19 1/3 innings, including one in each of his three appearances in the postseason.
• Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is playing through a groin injury which he claims he has been dealing with for the last two months. The injury doesn't appear to be inhibiting his hitting, and it hasn't prevented him from playing the field, but it does seem to be limiting his baserunning, and with the temperatures for Game 1 expected to dip into the 40s (there's also a 30 percent chance of rain and wind gusts that could exceed 40 miles per hour), there's a significant risk of him exacerbating it.
• Only four current Cardinals and Rangers also appeared in the 2004 interleague series between these two teams; Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Carpenter for the Cardinals, and Michael Young for the Rangers. Pujols was the Cardinals' designated hitter in all three of those games, while Young was then in his first year as the Rangers' shortstop after moving over from second base in the wake of the Alex Rodriguez/Alfonso Soriano trade.