World Series outlook
About the Cardinals: By this point, you should underestimate the Cardinals at your own risk. They outlasted two playoff teams (Reds and Pirates) within their own division in the regular season, and knocked off the Pirates and Dodgers in the NL playoffs. The even better news for the Cardinals is that they'll get Allen Craig back for the World Series after Craig missed six weeks with a foot injury. During the season, Craig put up a line of .315/.373/.457. He's likely to start at DH in Game 1 at Boston. Carlos Beltran plays in his first World Series, and many already consider him the best overall postseason hitter because of a playoff OPS of 1.173. The Cardinals come at other teams relentlessly with balance, whether it be Beltran, MVP candidate Yadier Molina, MVP candidate Matt Carpenter or Matt Holliday. The Cards have their starting rotation set, with Adam Wainwright ready for the opener. Michael Wacha has been a revelation, and the bullpen has been solid. The only thing working against the Cardinals is that the Red Sox have homefield advantage, but St. Louis has overcome everything else this year.
About the Red Sox: True, Boston has the fourth-highest payroll in baseball this season, but give general manager Ben Cherington big credit for some smart spending as the Red Sox went from last place in the AL East in 2012 (69-93) to first this year (97-65). Boston is batting an unimpressive .236 through the first two rounds of the postseason, but the ever-patient Red Sox have drawn 38 walks in 10 games. Jacoby Ellsbury is healthy and showing how good a player he is in the playoffs, batting .400 with 5 RBI and 6 stolen bases. David Ortiz is batting .200 (7-for-35) in October but has 3 home runs and 7 RBI. Former White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy has had a rough postseason, going 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA in 2 starts. Closer Koji Uehara has allowed 1 run in 9 innings while saving five games.
Cardinals in six
Bruce Miles' prediction: Cardinals in seven
-- Scot Gregor and Bruce Miles