McNeal: After Game 2 win, World Series became the Cardinals' to lose

Matheny's crew won't say it, but Stan McNeal will: The World Series is the Cards' to lose

ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright could not tell a fib. Asked Friday afternoon if he has given thought that his Game 5 start could be to clinch the 12th World Series championship for the Cardinals, he said, "Yes, if I'm on a lie detector, yes."

He was quick to add some perspective.

"What I do know is we can't get ahead of ourselves," Wainwright said Friday afternoon after the Cardinals very brief workout at Busch Stadium. "We have to go out there and win a game (Saturday) and we have to win Game 4. That's two games that are probably going to be very tough."

OK, so Wainwright hasn't been making plans that he will finish off the Red Sox Monday night and begin his off-season on Tuesday. Players on both of these teams are far too savvy to say anything that could be considered even borderline arrogant.  

"We're in a good situation," was as far as Wainwright went. "They would probably tell you they're in a good situation. But to come away from Boston after that first game with a split, that was important for us. We came back here evened up and we're playing in our home park where we play very good baseball."

Wainwright has nothing to gain by saying this Series has turned decidedly in the Cardinals' favor. But the rest of us have nothing to lose and, based on three reasons, I feel comfortable saying that the World Series became the Cardinals' to lose after they won Game 2.

They have home-field advantage. In what is now a best-of-five series, the Cardinals get the next three games at Busch Stadium.

That is no small factor when you look at how well the Cardinals have played when they've been able to sleep in their own beds, especially lately. Their 54-27 home record was second best in the majors and they finished stronger than they started. Since Aug. 13, the Cardinals have gone 25-6 at home, including 5-1 during the postseason, while outscoring the opposition 151-82.

They don't really know why they have been more successful at home, just that they have.

"We play hard everywhere," catcher Yadier Molina said. "To play in front of your fans, that's the key, I think."

The Red Sox's lineup will be lacking a thumper. The Cardinals' roster was assembled to play without the DH. The Red Sox's roster was not.

Their two most dangerous hitters this month have been DH David Ortiz and first baseman Mike Napoli. Now one of them will be limited to pinch-hitting or late-inning duty. Even the Red Sox admit benching one of their top sluggers puts them at a disadvantage.

"Being an American League team, we're going to miss a huge middle‑of‑the‑lineup bat because our team was built with the DH in it," Game 3 starter Jake Peavy said. "It's unfortunate that that's got to happen."

Ortiz is likely to play first base in all the games in St. Louis because of the way he's been swinging the bat, though so far he is certain only to start Game 3, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday.

While Ortiz is considered a good-hands, little-range defender, there's a reason he's a DH and has played a total of 25 games in the field over the past five years. Let's just say defense is not his strength. The way the first two games played out, defensive mistakes were the difference.

For the Cardinals, Matt Adams and not Allen Craig is expected to start at first base in Game 3. Craig took a few grounders Friday and is expected to take more on Saturday, and may even get a little work in the outfield. But the Cardinals don't sound ready to put him in the field.

"Right now we're not rushing it to where we feel we could put him in a spot where he compromises his health and goes backwards and we can't use him either as a pinch‑hitter or potentially as a DH again," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Carlos Beltran is looking better. When Beltran left Fenway Park after Game 1, he did not think his bruised right ribs would allow him to play in Game 2. But he woke up feeling better and with a little chemical assistance (Toradol injection), he not only played but got two hits and drove in a run.

He should continue to feel better as long as he doesn't bang into any more fences or absorb any 95 mph fastballs ala Hanley Ramirez. Matheny, in fact, thought that Beltran looked "pretty normal" Thursday night. Otherwise, he would not have played.

"He wouldn't allow himself, just out of pride's sake, to go out there," Matheny said. "It would have to be he felt that he could contribute and not be halfway going out there. 
He looked good to me and I think he's going to continue to get better every day. But I don't think he's far.

"He looked pretty normal to me (Thursday)," said Matheny. "I didn't see him wincing when he was taking swings, and moving pretty well in the outfield. He looked good to me. And I think he's going to continue to get better every day. I don't think he's far."

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