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Boston Red Sox: Four Keys to Beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series

Sox Are on a Roll but Must Be on Their Game to Beat the Powerful Cardinals

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox are about to play in their third World Series in the past decade, facing the St. Louis Cardinals and hoping to claim the eighth title in franchise history.

Beating the Cardinals will be no small task, as they had the best record in the National League this season on the backs of a talented and well-balanced team.

Here are four important keys for the Red Sox to have the best chance of winning this year's World Series:

Keep Xander Bogaerts in the Starting Lineup: The 21-year-old Aruban rookie had a cup of coffee with Boston during the regular season, but parlayed that into a spot on the postseason roster. He came up huge in the ALCS, collecting three doubles and three walks in nine plate appearances and taking over as the starting third baseman from Will Middlebrooks in Game 5.

Middlebrooks has just four hits in 23 at-bats (with nine strikeouts) so far during the playoffs. It's a tough time to run into a slump, but he should continue sitting in deference to Bogaerts.

Although Bogaerts is a shortstop without much experience playing third, he can play the position adequately, which is about the same level of proficiency Middlebrooks can claim with the glove.

It makes more sense to sit Middlebrooks than shortstop Stephen Drew, who is also slumping. Drew not only bats left-handed, which could come in handy against the right-handed orientated St. Louis staff, but he also has spent most of his career in the National League, making him one of the Boston players most familiar with the pitchers they are about to face.

Batting against the tough starting pitching of the Tigers, Bogaerts looked like a seasoned pro, building deep counts, collecting hits and drawing walks in key situations. He may be young, but he is the hot hand. Boston should continue playing him and hope it helps it take the series.

Manage Clay Buchholz's Starts: The right-hander missed much of the regular season with a neck injury. However, when he did pitch, he was nearly untouchable, going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 14 starts, while permitting just four home runs.

It has been a different story in the playoffs.

He has not recorded a decision in three starts between the LDS and LCS. In those games, he has given up three home runs and posted an ERA of 5.40.

He tired quickly and noticeably in all three of those starts, losing velocity and leaving his pitches up in the later innings. All 10 of the runs he has allowed so far this postseason have come in the fifth inning or after, perhaps a sign that he hasn't been able to fully regain his strength from his shortened season.

Buchholz can still be a valuable weapon but the Red Sox will need to manage his outings carefully and not be afraid to pull him at the first sign of serious trouble.

Be Aggressive With the Bullpen: The entire team has obviously been impressive this postseason but the relievers have truly stood out. They have allowed just three runs in 32.1 innings, good for a microscopic 0.84 ERA.

Closer Koji Uehara earned the ALCS MVP Award after dominating the Tigers and collecting three saves.

With such a deep and effective bullpen, the Red Sox must continue using them liberally in any game where the starting pitcher falters in any way. The end of the season and the ultimate prize are now in sight, and all the stops should be pulled out to get them to the end.

Boston relievers have already borne a heavy load, but still seem like they have gas left in the tank. If the team can squeeze out one more excellent series from them, they will likely have a World Series trophy to hoist for their efforts.

Don't Be Afraid to Play David Ortiz in the Field: Although the Red Sox have home-field advantage in the series, as many as three games will be played in St. Louis under National League rules. That means no designated hitter.

Playing Ortiz at first base isn't optimal, but it also isn't something that should be avoided if Boston needs his bat in the lineup.

Because of interleague play, he gets a handful of games in the field each season, including six this year. Not a nimble man by any means, he still hasn't made a defensive error since 2009.

Starting first baseman Mike Napoli proved to be a surprisingly capable defender this season -- his first full year manning the position. However, he can be vulnerable to cold spells at the plate.

The Red Sox should feel comfortable going with whoever they think gives them the best chance to win in those road games, even if it means tossing Ortiz a glove.

Conclusion: With two great teams playing, the 2013 World Series is sure to be a terrific matchup. It won't be easy, but the Red Sox can win, especially if they identify key areas they can exploit to give themselves every possible advantage.

In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.

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