Point/counterpoint: Who will win the World Series?

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals will win the World Series because they have more consistent resources on which to rely in pressure situations than the Rangers.

St. Louis can count on its nearly unhittable bullpen to keep it in the game in a high-stress situation; so far this postseason, Texas has relied on late-inning home runs to steal runs when struggling.

The Rangers won two ALCS games thanks to 11th-inning homers by Nelson Cruz. Texas struggled against the Tigers' dominant pitching in Game Two, until Cruz homered in the seventh to put the Rangers on the board. He struck again in the 11th with a walk-off grand slam that won the game. The Rangers won with an 11th-inning Cruz home run again in Game Four.

But the Cardinals won the National League pennant with their bullpen — especially in the NLCS, in which St. Louis starters repeatedly failed to last longer than five innings. Cardinal relievers maintained a collective 1.87 ERA in 28 2/3 innings against the Brewers and only allowed 14 Milwaukee hits in six games.

This pattern has continued in the first four games of the World Series, although it was less extreme. While the Cardinals' bullpen weakened to allow 11 hits and six runs in 16 2/3 innings — which is still pretty good — the Rangers continued to use homers to score runs and kick-start their momentum when the offense was flat.

In Game One, Texas' Mike Napoli hit a long-ball off red-hot Chris Carpenter. In Game Three, when the Cardinals exploded to score four runs in the third inning, Texas responded with homers. The Rangers used a sixth-inning three-run Napoli blast in Game Four to put the Cards out of striking distance.

Strong pitching habitually trumps strong batting, and relying on the craft and skill of the pitching staff is a more stable bet than relying on the luck and brawn of power hitters. The Cardinals' pitching excellence will shine through.

— by Molly Irene Olmstead

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers were within three wins of a world championship last year; now, one year later, 2011 will be the year for the Rangers.

The Rangers' offense has carried the club this close to a championship for the second-straight year, and the bats will carry them the rest of the way.

The Rangers will need to win in St. Louis to claim the title, but the Rangers are quite capable of accomplishing that task. Manager Ron Washington's club proved they can win at Busch Stadium in Game Two. It doesn't hurt that Texas' Game Two starter Colby Lewis, who has a 2.22 ERA in seven postseason starts, is scheduled to pitch Game Six in St. Louis.

Should the Series reach the first Game Seven since 2002, neither team will have one of its top pitchers on the hill. This favors an offensive-minded team such as the Rangers.

Because both teams' aces — St. Louis' Chris Carpenter and Texas' C.J. Wilson — threw in Game Five, the series will come down to offense. The Rangers have plenty of it; with such hitters as Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and ALCS hero Nelson Cruz, the Rangers are well-equipped to put runs on the board. Save for a spectacular outburst from Albert Pujols in Game Three, the Cardinals' offense has not been as strong.

Nothing against St. Louis, of course; the Cards made a magical run to the World Series after being down 10 1/2 games out the National League wild card on Aug. 26.

But if the Rangers refuse to let Pujols beat them single-handedly and continue to produce runs themselves, that magic will end and they'll hoist the Commissioner's Trophy as a symbol of the first World Series win in franchise history.

— by Ryan Murphy

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