A position-by-position look at the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox going into the World Series, starting Wednesday night at Fenway Park:
Cardinals: Matt Adams
Though he looks like a beer league softball player, Adams can really hit. Quick hands and a sound swing helped him post 17 homers and 51 RBIs in only 296 at-bats, impressive numbers for a rookie who has filled in admirably since cleanup man Allen Craig was injured in early September. Adams is prone to strikeouts, however, and can be vulnerable against left-handed pitching. Defense is not a strength.
Red Sox: Mike Napoli
After a hip condition showed up during his physical last winter, Napoli settled for an incentive-laden, one-year contract with the Red Sox after the sides had agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal. But the former catcher stayed healthy at first base and fit perfectly in Boston with his ample beard, patient approach and powerful swing. A proven postseason hitter, Napoli had two big homers in the ALCS against Detroit but also struck out 11 times in 20 at-bats.
Edge: Red Sox
Cardinals: Matt Carpenter
Catalyst for the NL's highest-scoring offense, Carpenter had a breakout season that earned him his first All-Star selection. He led the majors in hits (199), runs (126) and doubles (55), making the leadoff man a surprise MVP contender. Carpenter held his own at second, too, after switching from third base in spring training. Just coming out of a slump, he started to find his stroke in the NLCS against the Dodgers.
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
The heart and soul of the gritty Red Sox since their 2007 championship, Pedroia plays with a dirty uniform and an all-out gusto that translates into leadership and wins. It also inspires a string of clichés about the 2008 AL MVP. But there's no denying how good he is — regardless of size — and how crucial this mighty mite has been to Boston's success.