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Red Sox praise Cards, expect tightly contested Series

Boston, St. Louis boast stellar pitching, recent playoff success, passionate fan bases

BOSTON -- As joyful patrons filed out of Fenway Park on Saturday night, there was a message for them on the jumbotron scoreboard.

"Thank you for coming. We'll see you at the World Series."

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Perhaps it's only fitting that the next opponent for the Red Sox -- the final opponent -- is the Cardinals, the team that tied them with a Major League-leading 97 wins during the regular season.

"Watching them [Friday] night, they've got a fantastic team," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "And they have lot of young power arms that will walk to that mound. By the time Wednesday rolls around, we'll be prepared."

The two teams that will face off in the World Series, which begins Wednesday night at Fenway Park (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX/8:07 p.m. first pitch), mirror each other in certain ways.

If there is a city that has the same level of passion for baseball as Boston, it is St. Louis.

And both organizations have provided joy to their fan bases in recent years.

Dating back to 2004, the Red Sox and Cardinals are the only teams in the Majors to get to the World Series three times.

Whichever team wins this Fall Classic will become the first to win it three times in that same span.

"These two organizations have been the best, I think, over the last decade," said Red Sox owner John Henry. "They've been in the most World Series. It should be a great series. St. Louis, I grew up in that area. It's such a great baseball town. They love baseball probably as much as we do here. It's like going home for me."

This will be the fourth time the two tradition-laden franchises have met in the World Series. The Cardinals won in seven games in both 1946 and '67.

But the Red Sox snapped their 86-year World Series championship drought by sweeping the Cardinals in 2004.

Each team has only one active player left from those '04 squads. David Ortiz for the Red Sox and Yadier Molina with the Cardinals. St. Louis righty Chris Carpenter was inactive in the '04 Series, and he hasn't pitched this season.

"They treated us so well in 2004," said Henry. "I don't think they'll treat us as well this year. But we might be even tougher than we were then. I wouldn't want to play us."

The Cardinals, after upending a tough Dodgers team in a six-game National League Championship Series, undoubtedly feel the same way about their team.

Though there was no announcement from Farrell after the euphoria of beating the Tigers in ALCS-clinching Game 6 on Saturday, it is all but certain that lefty Jon Lester will get the call in Game 1 of the World Series.

The last time the Red Sox were in the World Series was 2007, and Lester got the clinching win in Colorado.

"I think it's a big difference," said Lester. "In '07, I wasn't here from Day 1. I came in late in the year. To be here from Day 1 of Spring Training, to be with these guys, to grow with these guys, to become family with these guys, it's just been a special experience.

"Regardless of what happens in the next round, this team is one of the most special teams I've ever been on, as far as one through 40. It's just been a great season, a fun season, and something that I'll always remember no matter what happens."

The Cardinals are likely to counter with ace righty Adam Wainwright in Game 1. They could go with 22-year-old Michael Wacha in Game 2, and he's been unhittable in this postseason.

"I think it's going to be a pitching duel this World Series," said Ortiz. "I've been watching the games -- the Cardinals have a great pitching staff, we had a good pitching staff, so we'll see."

It will be interesting to see who Farrell goes with in Game 2. John Lackey got that nod in the Division Series, but Clay Buchholz leap-frogged ahead of him in the ALCS.

Lackey was brilliant in his lone start in the ALCS, so he might reclaim his No 2 spot with Buchholz starting the first game in St. Louis. Jake Peavy will likely keep his No. 4 spot in Boston's rotation.

"They're an outstanding baseball organization," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. "We have enormous respect for them, from their ownership and the DeWitt family, and the rest of their partners, and the entire front office -- they do it right in a city that really knows and loves baseball, and rivals Boston in its passion and sophistication."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.

Boston Red Sox