The last time the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals collided in the first game of the World Series -- on Oct. 23, 2004 -- the resultant sparks from the impact forced certain portions of the record book to be rewritten and others to be examined.
The two clubs -- who had led their respective leagues in scoring that season -- combined for 20 runs (a new record for a World Series Game 1) and 24 hits (tying the existing Game 1 record, since surpassed) while using 37 players (one shy of the record for any nine-inning World Series contest).
Every World Series casts its own shadow and becomes memorable for its own set of numerical and narrative contributions, but it also aligns itself with all of the Fall Classics that preceded it. With these perspectives in mind, the notes below offer some thoughts to consider before the 109th Fall Classic begins.
• During the regular season, the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter authored an .881 OPS while batting in the leadoff slot, while Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury compiled a .781 mark from that spot. The two figures represented the second- and third-highest marks, respectively, among all players with at least 500 plate appearances in that split. Meanwhile, Cardinals pitchers allowed a .796 OPS to those batting first in the lineup (second worst in the Majors) and Red Sox hurlers weren't much better, with their .751 OPS-against ranking 25th. This 2013 World Series might see a lot of significant work from Carpenter and Ellsbury.
• If Ellsbury gets on, then, of course, the narrative shifts to the contest between his lead, the pitcher's ability to hold him close and the world-class throwing ability of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Molina -- the active leader in caught-stealing percentage -- threw out one baserunner and allowed two steals through the first two rounds of the 2013 postseason. Ellsbury -- who already has more steals (six) in this postseason than any Red Sox player has ever had in one playoff run -- owned a 92.86-percent success rate this season, with 52 thefts in 56 attempts. Since 1961, among the 215 players with at least 50 steals in a season, no one has posted a better percentage.
• The 2013 World Series will mark the fourth time these two franchises have met in the Fall Classic, with the Cardinals twice emerging as the champs (in seven-game classics in 1946 and '67), and the Red Sox getting a measure of revenge with their four-game sweep in 2004. Looking at all of the franchise v. franchise matchups the 109 World Series' have provided, this St. Louis-Boston selection is one of seven to have occurred at least four times:
Yankees vs. Dodgers, with the Yankees winning eight of 11
Yankees vs. Giants, with the Yankees winning five of seven
Cardinals vs. Yankees, with the Cardinals taking three of five
Athletics vs. Giants, with the A's winning three of four
Cubs vs. Tigers, with the two clubs splitting their four contests
Yankees vs. Braves, with the Yankees taking three of four
Cardinals vs. Red Sox, with Cardinals taking two of the first three
• The two starting pitchers for Game 1 -- the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright and Boston's Jon Lester -- will each be making his first Game 1 start in the Fall Classic.
There have been 216 starts in a Game 1, with a combined ERA of 3.33 and the hurlers averaging a little more than 6 2/3 innings. An average start has consisted of about 6.06 hits, with about 4.6 strikeouts, and two strikeouts for every walk.
A hurler hasn't thrown a Game 1 shutout since 1989 -- when Dave Stewart produced one for Oakland -- and there have been a total of 13 of them. A double-digit strikeout performance from a Game 1 starter has come more frequently (there have been 16 of those) and more recently, with the last one coming from the left arm of Cliff Lee in 2009.
• During the 2013 regular season, the Cardinals posted the National League's second-highest batting average, with their .269 mark just behind the Rockies .270. Over in the American League, Boston also produced the second-highest mark, with their .277 lagging behind the Tigers' .283.
Those respective batting marks did not carry over into the League Championship Series', where the Red Sox's .202 average was the fourth lowest for a winning team in an ALCS, and the Cardinals' .211 was the third lowest for the victor in the NLCS. Interestingly, the Red Sox own both the highest batting average for a World Series champ (.333 in 2007) and the lowest average for a World Series winner (.186 in 1918). The lowest combined batting average in the World Series is the .171 compiled by the Orioles and Dodgers in 1966, while the highest combined average came from the Yankees and Pirates (.300) in '60.
The last World Series -- before 2013 -- to feature teams with either the best or second-best batting averages in their leagues occurred just two years ago, when the Cardinals (tops in the NL) faced off against the Rangers (No. 1 in the AL). The two clubs then combined to hit .249 in the series.
Some other elements to keep in mind as the games begin, from the perspective of what sort of history might be made:
• If the World Series produces even one team shutout, that will make a total of nine for the 2013 postseason. In postseasons with three rounds (1981, every one since 1995), the most shutouts in any one year were the nine produced in 2012. The Red Sox have only been blanked three times in a total of 68 World Series contests: against the Cubs in Game 5 in 1918 and against the Cardinals twice (Game 2 in 1946 and Game 4 in '67). In their 112 World Series games, the Cardinals franchise has suffered nine shutouts, including one in each of their three previous tests against Boston.
• Each time they come to the plate, Boston's David Ortiz and the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran will have a chance to climb up various career postseason leaderboards. Ortiz is ninth in total bases, tied for fourth in doubles, tied for ninth in home runs, fifth in RBIs, eighth in walks and fifth in extra-base hits. Beltran is eighth in home runs and tied for 10th in extra-base hits.
One last thought, purely for those interested in the more trivial aspects that can arise when outcomes and performances are dissected: If Adam Wainwright can pick up a win in a start, the St. Louis right-hander would become the 19th pitcher to have a World Series save and a World Series win as a starter. Wainwright, who picked up a save in Game 5 of the 2006 Fall Classic, would be one of three pitchers to do both with the Cardinals, joining Pete Alexander (who had two wins and a retroactive, Game 7 save in 1926) and Bill Hallahan (who threw a shutout in the 1930 World Series and then in 1931, added two more wins -- including a shutout -- as a starter, and picked up a retroactive save in Game 7).
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.