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BOSTON — Lance Lynn squeezed through a door leading into the Green Monster, shimmied along a cramped space behind the famed left-field wall and peered out a tiny metal slot in the Fenway Park scoreboard.
“A little snug for me,” the burly St. Louis pitcher said.
Plenty of Cardinals got their first look at the century-old ballpark during a workout Tuesday, a day before they opened the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox saw a neat sight, too. As they took batting practice at dusk, a giant, vibrant rainbow formed high in the sky beyond center field. Slugger David Ortiz noticed.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “It’s a Dominican thing.”
Whatever, Big Papi. Something special always seems to happen when the Redbirds and Red Sox meet, from Stan the Man vs. the Splendid Splinter, to Gibby vs. Yaz, to Pedro vs. Pujols.
Now, they’re set to meet for the fourth time in “that Octobery kind of air,” as Cardinals Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright described it.
Jon Lester will oppose him today, facing a lineup that got a late boost. Allen Craig, who hit a major league-leading .454 with runners in scoring position but hasn’t played since Sept. 4 because of sprained left foot, is set to return.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot,” said the cleanup man, who will be the Cardinals’ designated hitter.
Weather could be a factor. Temperatures are supposed to dip into the low 40s and rain is possible.
Boston was listed as a slim favorite in the matchup between teams that tied for the big league lead in wins. The clubs haven’t met in the regular season since 2008, and Red Sox speedster Jacoby Ellsbury was looking forward to this pairing that some are billing as the Beards vs. the Birds.
“It will be exciting to see some unfamiliar faces,” he said.
Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, and many of their scraggly Boston teammates figure to get a good look at the Cardinals’ crop of young arms, led by postseason ace Michael Wacha and relievers Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Kevin Siegrist.
Ortiz is the link to the Red Sox team that swept St. Louis in the 2004 Series — Boston never trailed at any point — and ended an 86-year championship drought.
“Obviously I’m aware of the history of the two teams,” Ellsbury said. “Once the first pitch happens, all that goes out the window.”
The Red Sox are trying to win their third crown in 10 years. St. Louis is aiming to take its second title in three years and third in eight seasons.
“Some of us have some pretty bad memories of being here in 2004, and we’re looking to kind of right that ship,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Matheny was the Cardinals’ catcher that year, backed up by rookie Yadier Molina. Now Molina is considered the best defensive catcher in baseball, charged with trying to stop Ellsbury and a Red Sox team that’s run a lot in the postseason.
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“It’s fun to be part of this history, to be here in Fenway Park, to be part of this Series against Boston,” Molina said.
“It’s different to play here overall. Playing defense, offense, pitching. It’s different, but at the same time it’s fun,” he said.
David Freese grew up in St. Louis and became MVP of the 2011 Series. He heard about Stan Musial vs. Ted Williams in 1946, knew about Bob Gibson facing Carl Yastrzemski in ‘67, and recalled watching on TV when Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke fielded Edgar Renteria’s tapper to finish off 2004.
“I remember the comebacker that ended it. The sweep. You don’t expect a World Series to end in four games,” the 30-year-old third baseman said.
Freese said he’d always hoped to get a chance to play at Fenway, and he got his first look Tuesday.
After Matheny stood near the mound and pointed out the particulars of the dirt triangle in center field, Freese stepped in for batting practice.
He launched a long drive that hit high off the Green Monster in left-center, the loud thwack echoing all around the ballpark.
“That’s my Wall ball,” he hooted to teammate Matt Holliday.
Good for a hitter, maybe not so great for a pitcher.
’’A ballgame can change with one swing of the bat in this ballpark,” said Wacha, who also climbed into the wall. “It’s pretty crazy. Crazy dimensions, that’s for sure.”
A look at the best-of-seven World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox:
■ Season Series: Did not play.
■ Projected Lineups:
Cardinals: 2B Matt Carpenter (.318, 11 HRs, 78 RBIs, .392 OBP; led MLB with 199 hits, 126 runs and 55 doubles), RF Carlos Beltran (.296, 24, 84), LF Matt Holliday (.300, 22, 94, .389 OBP), C Yadier Molina (.319, 12, 80), DH Allen Craig (.315, 13, 97, MLB-best .454 average with RISP), 3B David Freese (.262, 9, 60), 1B Matt Adams (.284, 17, 51 in 108 games), CF Jon Jay (.276, 7, 67, 10 SBs) or Shane Robinson (.250, 2, 16 in 144 ABs), SS Pete Kozma (.217, 1, 35) or Daniel Descalso (.238, 5, 43).
Red Sox: CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9, 53, 92 runs, MLB-best 52/56 SBs), RF Shane Victorino (.294, 15, 61, 21 SBs), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.301, 9, 84, 42 doubles, 17 SBs), DH David Ortiz (.309, 30, 103, .959 OPS), 1B Mike Napoli (.259, 23, 92), LF Jonny Gomes (.247, 13, 52) or Daniel Nava (.303, 12, 66), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273, 14, 65), SS Stephen Drew (.253, 13, 67, 8 errors), 3B Xander Bogaerts (.250, 1, 5 in 44 ABs).
■ Projected Rotations:
Cardinals: RH Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA, 223 Ks, NL-high 241 2-3 IP), RH Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 in 15 games, 9 starts; NLCS MVP), RH Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 in 37 games, 15 starts), RH Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97).
Red Sox: LH Jon Lester (15-8, 2.75, 213 1-3 IP), RH John Lackey (10-13, 3.52, 2 CG), RH Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74), RH Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 with White Sox and Red Sox).
Cardinals: RH Trevor Rosenthal (2-4, 2.74 ERA, 3 saves), RH Carlos Martinez (2-1, 5.08 in 21 games), RH Seth Maness (5-2, 2.32, 16 GIDP in 62 IP), LH Randy Choate (2-1, 2.29 in 64 games), LH Kevin Siegrist (3-1, 0.45, 39 2-3 IP, 17 hits, 50 Ks, 18 BBs), RH John Axford (7-7, 4.02 in 75 games; 1-0, 1.74 in 13 games with Cardinals after trade from Milwaukee), RH Edward Mujica (2-1, 2.78, 37/41 saves), RH Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06 in 31 starts; led MLB rookies in wins).
Red Sox: RH Koji Uehara (4-1, 1.09, 21/24 saves, 101 Ks, 9 BBs, 73 games; ALCS MVP), RH Junichi Tazawa (5-4, 3.16, 71 games), LH Craig Breslow (5-2, 1.81), RH Brandon Workman (6-3, 4.97 in 20 games, 3 starts), LH Felix Doubront (11-6, 4.32 in 29 games, 27 starts), LH Franklin Morales (2-2, 4.62), RH Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.57 in 32 games, 29 starts).
While these teams haven't run into each other in interleague play since June 2008, they have met in three memorable World Series throughout the years: St. Louis won seven-game thrillers in 1946 and 1967 before Boston rolled to a 2004 sweep that halted its 86-year championship drought. Aside from Yankees-Dodgers, there hasn't been a more frequent matchup since that first Red Sox-Cardinals clash. ... Each one left its own mark in baseball lore. There was Enos Slaughter's "mad dash" home in 1946, when Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky appeared to hesitate on the relay, deciding a World Series that pitted Ted Williams against Stan Musial. There was Bob Gibson denying Carl Yastrzemski and Boston's "Impossible Dream" in 1967. And there was Curt Schilling's bloody sock and the end of The Curse of the Bambino nine years ago. The Red Sox never trailed in that Series. ... Both model franchises rank among the most successful in baseball over the past 15 years. The Red Sox are seeking their third World Series title in 10 seasons. The Cardinals are going for their second in three years and third since 2006. ... Both clubs won 97 games this season, tying for the best record in the majors. It marks the first time since the Yankees swept the Braves in 1999 that the top teams in each league have met in the World Series. ... St. Louis led the National League with 783 runs. Boston topped the majors with 853. ... The designated hitter creates key questions for both teams, as it often does in the World Series. Craig seems a perfect choice for the Cardinals when AL rules apply in Boston — he said Sunday he has recovered enough from a sprained left foot that's sidelined him since early September. And if Craig is healthy enough to play first base, then Adams could slide to DH. Holliday and Beltran could also be candidates, opening room in the outfield for two superior defenders in Robinson and Jay. But when there is no DH allowed in the NL park, the Red Sox have a difficult decision to make. They can keep Ortiz in the lineup at first base, but that puts Napoli on the bench. A proven postseason slugger, Napoli hit two big homers in the ALCS. He used to be a catcher, but hasn't caught all season. ... Wainwright took a tough-luck loss in the NLCS but is 4-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 4 saves in 16 career postseason games, including 7 starts. He even helped St. Louis to a championship as a rookie closer in 2006. ... Wacha, the NLCS MVP, has been almost unhittable lately, displaying remarkable poise for a 22-year-old rookie. He lost a no-hit bid against Washington on an infield single with two outs in the ninth inning of his final regular-season outing, then pitched 7 1-3 hitless innings at Pittsburgh before Pedro Alvarez homered in Game 4 of the NLDS. With the Cardinals facing elimination, Wacha won 2-1 to send the series back to St. Louis. In the NLCS, he outpitched Kershaw twice and threw 13 2-3 scoreless innings. He is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in 3 postseason starts. ... With plenty of speed at the top of the lineup, the Red Sox like to run. With a rocket arm behind the plate, Molina makes it tough — he threw out 19 of 45 runners trying to steal this year. That matchup should be interesting. On the other side, St. Louis is short on wheels and rarely tries to steal. It's a role reversal of sorts — traditionally, the Red Sox have built their offenses on plodding sluggers, while the Cardinals love jackrabbits who can scoot. ... More than a dozen players remain from the Cardinals team that won the 2011 World Series. ... Boston is 8-0 in World Series games since losing Game 7 against the New York Mets in 1986. ... Few in this matchup have faced the opposing pitchers, but Victorino and Gomes, two former NL players, each have homered off Wainwright.
■ Big Picture:
Cardinals: After winning their 19th pennant, the Cardinals are seeking their 12th World Series title. They nearly repeated as NL champs in 2012 before blowing a 3-1 lead against San Francisco in the NLCS. This year, they opened a 3-1 lead over Los Angeles before dropping Game 5. But the Cardinals closed it out by thumping Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the Game 6 clincher. ... When the season is on the line, nobody's been better than St. Louis. After winning the final two games of their best-of-five division series against Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are 8-1 when facing postseason elimination the past three years. ... The pressure was on throughout the regular season and the Cardinals (97-65) pulled away at the finish from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to win the NL Central after never leading by more than four games nor trailing by more than four. To win another championship, they'll need a long list of youngsters to keep coming through for second-year manager Mike Matheny. ... After setting a franchise record by batting .330 with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals' potent lineup was minus a big bat in Craig during the playoffs. Adams hit eight homers filling in at first base down the stretch but can be vulnerable against lefties. His two-run homer in the eighth inning all but sealed Game 5 against Pittsburgh. ... Kelly was a fill-in for the second straight year but ended up being the team's most consistent starter for about six weeks. ... The 23-year-old Miller also is a top-end talent, but he was left out of the playoff rotation and has pitched only one inning of relief this postseason. ... The bullpen anchors are also young, led by the hard-throwing Rosenthal.
Red Sox: Boston (97-65) returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009 after one of the most tumultuous periods in franchise history. Following an unprecedented collapse in September 2011, the Red Sox brought in manager Bobby Valentine to restore order to a clubhouse that had grown complacent under two-time World Series champion Terry Francona. Players rebelled against Valentine and the team won just 69 games — its worst finish in almost half a century. The rebuilding began with the August 2012 trade of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers. ... The AL's victory in the All-Star game gives them the extra home game in the World Series. ... Under new manager John Farrell, the Red Sox became the second AL team in the three-division era to go from worst to first. Then they defeated the wild-card Rays 3-1 in the division series, winning both home games. Boston beat Detroit 4-2 in the ALCS to capture its 13th pennant, going 2-1 at Fenway Park despite nearly getting no-hit in the opener. Grand slams by Ortiz in Game 2 and Victorino in Game 6 rallied the Red Sox to victory. ... This was Boston's first AL East title since 2007 and just the second since 1995. ... Ortiz is the only player remaining from the 2004 World Series title team. Pedroia, Lester and Ellsbury were also on the 2007 champions. ... The Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row this season, the first major league team to do that since the 2005 Cardinals. Boston has dropped three straight only twice since May.