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Explosive lineups take center stage
10/22/2004 9:09 PM ET
BOSTON -- The last time St. Louis and Boston met in the World Series it went seven games, was dominated by pitching and not once did either team reach double digits in runs scored.

The Cardinals, who won the 1967 World Series, 4-3, hit .223 as a team, while the Red Sox batted .216.

The Cardinals and Red Sox are meeting once more in the Fall Classic, but that might be all this series will have in common with the one held here 37 years ago.

Then it was pitching, now it is offense. In fact, two of the more potent offenses baseball has seen in recent years.

The Red Sox led the Majors with 949 runs, while the Cardinals led the Senior Circuit with 855. Both have dangerous hitters from top to bottom with MVP candidates dotting the middle of the order of both, including David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez of Boston and Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds of St. Louis.

"I wish I didn't [see similarities] because I like our lineup a lot and they have a very potent lineup," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "When you start hitting Larry Walker second, you've got some sock in that lineup. And I've seen Rolen close for four years, I know what he can do, and Pujols might be the best hitter in the game. Edmonds -- they are pretty thick like we are and they are pretty dangerous."

The Red Sox have six regulars who hit .300 or better with runners in scoring position during the regular season. The Cardinals have four.

The Red Sox and Cardinals were 1-2 in the Majors in slugging percentage and total bases. Both teams led their respective leagues in batting average. Both have deep benches loaded with talented hitters.

"There's a lot of damage in both lineups," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "The mistake we're not going to make is concentrating on Ortiz and Ramirez and forgetting the other seven guys. One of Boston's strengths is exactly what we do: We send eight or nine guys out there and any one of them can beat you. So you've got to respect every one of them."

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Both teams had to get past teams with slugging lineups to get this far. The Cardinals beat out Houston in the NLCS, while the Red Sox came from a 3-0 hole to beat New York in the ALCS.

The heart of the St. Louis order -- Walker, Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds -- is widely considered the best in the game. But Boston's bangers are right there with them in terms of sheer firepower.

"I know a little about them from having seen them on TV, but what I do know is they have an outstanding team and a lineup that's as good as any you could name," Cardinals left fielder Reggie Sanders said. "Both teams had some high-scoring games [in the LCS], and the potential is there for more of those types of games. But you're also talking about some outstanding pitchers, too, like Pedro [Martinez] and [Curt] Schilling, so it could be pitchers' duels."

Boston shortstop Orlando Cabrera is familiar with St. Louis after coming to the Red Sox from Montreal. Cabrera expects a hotly contested series not unlike Boston's usual tangles with the Yankees.

"They're a lot like us," Cabrera said. "They have a lot of great hitters and really nobody in the lineup you'd want to face, everybody can hurt you. If you make a mistake against them, they make you pay."

In a battle of two superpowered offenses that could wind up negating one another, the outcome of the series might hinge on defense or other aspects of the offensive game, like baserunning.

Not surprisingly, both of these offenses showed time and again this year they could score even on those occasions when the home runs weren't flying out of the park. The Red Sox led baseball with a team on-base percentage of .360. The Cardinals, who, of course, don't use the DH in the National League, were not far behind at .344.

The Cardinals swiped 111 bases, fifth most in baseball, while the Red Sox pilfered 68, which ranked 21st among the 30 Major League teams.

"We run the bases better than any club I've ever had," La Russa said.

What we have here shapes up to be as much a fireworks show as baseball. Each offense is capable of going off at any time in a big way.

That's a far cry from '67, which was just two years before Major League Baseball decided offenses needed help and so it lowered the pitcher's mound from 15 to 10 inches.

This time it is the pitchers who might be needing help.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.