Bearded BoSox ready to face off against fresh-faced Cards

Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia and the bearded guys from Boston. Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal and those fresh mugs from St. Louis. Pretty neat face-off in this World Series.

Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia and the bearded guys from Boston. Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal and those fresh mugs from St. Louis.

Pretty neat face-off in this World Series.

Cardinals-Red Sox, once again in October. Fully rested, they’ll start Wednesday night at Fenway Park with Boston opening as a slim favourite.

Post-season stars from past and present — Carlos Beltran, David Freese, John Lackey, David Ortiz and Adam Wainwright.

Juicy plotlines — can Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina shut down Jacoby Ellsbury and the runnin’ Red Sox? Can all-world closer Koji Uehara stop Matt Holliday and the Cardinals?

Plus, plenty of history — think Stan Musial vs. Ted Williams in 1946, Bob Gibson vs. Carl Yastrzemski in ’67 or Pedro Martinez vs. Albert Pujols in 2004. Or, perhaps more memorably that last time, Curt Schilling and the bloody sock vs. The Curse.

The Red Sox and Cardinals are hardly arch enemies, however. They haven’t played since Kevin Youkilis homered over the Green Monster in the 13th inning on June 22, 2008.

This year, Boston and St. Louis bounced back from disappointments and tied for the most victories in the majors with 97. Not since the Braves and Yankees in 1999 have league win leaders met in the World Series (the Cardinals and Red Sox were the top-scoring teams in their leagues, too).

Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Boston’s scraggly band rose under first-year manager John Farrell, a season after the team hit bottom under Bobby Valentine with its most losses in nearly five decades.

Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams and St. Louis rebounded a year after wasting a 3-1 lead in the NL championship series against the Giants. Manager Mike Matheny got lots of help from a rookie-laden staff.

Wacha was the MVP of the NLCS and is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in the post-season. Rosenthal took over the closer role with a 100 mph fastball. Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and others also made major contributions.

The Cardinals captured their 19th NL pennant by trouncing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Friday night in Game 6 of the NLCS.

“Watching them last night, they’ve got a fantastic team. And a lot of young power arms that will walk to that mound,” Farrell said.

The Red Sox earned their 13th pennant Saturday night, riding Victorino’s go-ahead grand slam to a 5-2 victory over Detroit in Game 6 of the ALCS. Uehara was the MVP with a win and three saves.

“It’s been a special ride,” Pedroia said, “and we’re still going.”

For Beltran, this will be his first time in the World Series. For the Cardinals, it’s their fourth trip in 10 years.

For the Red Sox, it’s their third Series visit in the last decade. And they hope for a repeat performance from 2004, when they never trailed during a four-game sweep of the Cardinals and won their first championship since 1918.

Johnny Damon playfully called his Boston teammates a bunch of “idiots” and Kevin Millar exhorting them to “Cowboy Up!” Manny Ramirez was the MVP of the series while Ortiz showed he was more than a slugger, switching from designated hitter to snazzy fielder at first base when the Series shifted to old Busch Stadium.

There are just a few leftovers from that fall.

Ortiz lined a key grand slam in this ALCS. Molina is now regarded as baseball’s best defensive catcher — he was 21 in that ’04 matchup and a backup to Matheny. Now, their teams are set to meet for the fourth time in a World Series. Aside from Dodgers-Yankees, there hasn’t been a more common pairing since that initial Red Sox-Cardinals meeting in 1946.

Here we go again.

“We’ve still got one more step,” Victorino said.

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