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World Series position matchups
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10/22/2004 3:37 PM ET
World Series position matchups
Who's got the edge going into the 100th Fall Classic
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Mike Matheny has the defensive reputation (and Gold Gloves), but Jason Varitek may be superior in blocking pitches in the dirt, critical to handling the staff's sinkerball pitchers. Varitek's game also includes the dimension of offense. But look for Doug Mirabelli, with one postseason at-bat, to be behind the plate for Game 1 starter Tim Wakefield's knucklers.

Kevin Millar will lose his spot in the lineup for the middle three games, when ALCS MVP David Ortiz puts on the mitt. But not even that tag-team can match the remarkable Mr. Albert Pujols, who comes off an NLCS in which he hit .500 and slugged .907. At 24, Pujols is already a 24-game postseason vet.

Curt Schilling's ankle, meet Tony Womack's back. Womack's wincing efforts in Game 7 were almost as impressive. But the Cards lose a little if he can't bat leadoff. Mark Bellhorn's strikeouts (15 in 37 postseason at-bats) continue to confound, but his decisive three-run homer in Game 6 was an example of the threat that keeps him in there.

Bill Mueller has one extra-base hit and one RBI in 42 post-season at-bats. Scott Rolen had more than that in just the sixth inning of Game 7, and rebounded from his hitless NLDS to hit a strong .310 against Houston. Both are clubhouse anchors, Mueller's sedate personality being particularly important to the frantic Red Sox.

Edgar Renteria has for years been one of baseball's unappreciated gems, and Orlando Cabrera's coming-out postseason has almost rivaled that of Carlos Beltran. You're going to see eye-popping 'D' no matter which team is in the field, but Renteria has a more versatile bat and the World Series experience (1997 Marlins).

The Quiet Corner: Neither Manny Ramirez nor Reggie Sanders had an RBI in the LCS. But despite that, it wasn't like Manny came up empty. He hit .300, so could be on the verge of another explosive week. Sanders is appearing in his third World Series, with three different teams, in four years.

Two guys who should play the position in crash helmets, Johnny Damon and Jim Edmonds, will put on a show. In Game 7 against the Yankees, Damon shot out of his slump the way the Batmobile came out of the Bat Cave. Edmonds has the superior arm and an inside-out swing that can pepper The Wall.

Trot Nixon, ignoring the hurt remaining from his injury-filled season, played some scintillating defense in the ALCS. Larry Walker, who completed the Cards in August, runs better and has the heavier bat. Fenway's tricky right-field corner can be decisive in a game, and Nixon knows it well. Both are to be feared in the clutch.

Ortiz has been a postseason walk-off monster, finishing off the Angels and back-to-backing the Yankees. For the Fenway games, Tony La Russa's choices all bat left-handed, but that's no problem against the Sox's all-righty rotation. Look for John Mabry in the slot, keeping the speed of Roger Cedeno and Marlon Anderson in reserve.

Closer Keith Foulke and setup party Alan Embree, Mike Myers and Mike Timlin were juggled masterfully by Terry Francona. Bronson Arroyo, bumped from the rotation, was a totally different, tougher pitcher in two ALCS relief outings. Jason Isringhausen pulled a Foulke-like load in the NLCS. Lefty Ray King, whose assignment will be Ortiz, is key.

Note to Cards: If you see Dave Roberts leave the Sox's bench, expect trouble; he was huge in two ALCS wins without ever swinging a bat. Millar will join Doug Mientkiewicz, Pokey Reese and Gabe Kapler on the Busch bench. Cedeno will be the first bat off the Cards' bench, and Anderson's legs could swing a tight game.

Terry Francona fed crow to a lot of people who spent the ALCS questioning his seemingly random pitching moves -- all of which worked to perfection. Working pitchers is also a Tony La Russa specialty, so we'll have some great chess matches. Wonder if La Russa, a 1969-70 Oakland teammate of Tito Francona, ever babysat 10-year-old Terry?

Forget the angle about the vengeful Red Sox wanting to punish St. Louis for costing them half (1946, 1967) of their shots at a World Series title since 1918. These Sox can't even remember where they put their combs. The Cards are out to enhance their wonderful heritage. The soon-to-be-dispersed Red Sox ache to leave their mark.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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