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World Series Game 1: Adam Wainwright vs. Jon Lester

Posted by David Sabino  October 22, 2013 07:30 AM

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Former National Leaguer Jonny Gomes is one of the few Red Sox hitters with big league experience against Adam Wainwright.

Even in this age of interleague play and free agency there are still some combinations of teams and players that somehow don't come together. Despite their history of World Series appearances, the Red Sox and Cardinals are relative strangers. The two storied franchises haven't met in the regular season since a three-game set at Fenway Park in 2008 and haven't clashed in St. Louis since 2005.

For the most part St. Louis batters don't know Jon Lester and likewise he doesn't know them. Of those likely to comprise the 25-man roster, only three players
have faced Lester—Yadier Molina (0 for 3), Carlos Beltran (1 for 1 with 2 walks) and Matt Holliday (2 for 3 in the regular season while with Oakland). Holliday was also part of the 2007 Rockies squad that faced Lester in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, but the right handed slugger failed to get a ball off the infield as the Red Sox closed out the Series sweep.

For the second consecutive game, the Sox will have to go figure out a league wins champion. Veteran righty Adam Wainwright won 19 games to tie Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the NL lead in 2013. He's won at least 19 games in three of his last four active seasons, having missed 2011 recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. Despite that idle campaign, his 72 wins since the start of 2009 trails Lester by just one . And Lester's 73 rank fourth among all pitchers the majors.

You may retort that wins have become a sullied stat to many in the baseball stats community, so consider this instead: Wainwright finished fourth among senior circuit hurlers with a WAR of 6.2. That means the Cardinals were 6.2 wins better with him on the bump than with a replacement level thrower. His 6.26 strikeouts per walk was second-best in the majors behind only the über-efficient Cliff Lee's 6.94 while his 2.94 ERA was seventh in the NL. And those numbers all come with Wainwright eating the most innings (241 2/3 for any NL pitcher since 2010.

Yet like Lester, Wainwright has never faced his next opponent in a game that mattered, but he does have significant familiarity with some of Boston's NL-refugees. Shane Victorino has gone up against Wainwright 23 times to the tune of .227/.261/.409, with one home run and three RBIs. That's the good news for Red Sox Nation. The other Sox who have experience against Wainwright—Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, David Ross and Mike Carp (we'll skip Ryan Dempster's 0 for 4 although there's an infinitesimal chance he could see an at bat at Busch Stadium)— have a combined 6 for 43 (.140) with two home runs, two doubles and four walks.

Wainwright is also one of 20 pitchers since 2009 to make at least a half dozen postseason starts. Only Justin Verlander (who the Red Sox narrowly escaped having to face in an ALDS Game 7 thanks to Victorino's series-winning grand slam), has a lower WHIP (0.89 to 0.91) while only Doug Fister (2.06), Matt Cain (2.10), Colby Lewis (2.34), Verlander (2.51) and Cliff Lee (2.52) have a lower ERA than Wainwright's 2.54—and that includes one game in which he gave up six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Nationals (a game the Cardinals eventually won). In his six other starts Wainwright has allowed as many as two runs once, and pitched fewer than seven innings also just once.

Thus far this postseason the Sox have faced and defeated the past two AL Cy Young Award recipients, the presumptive 2013 winner, the AL ERA champion and a lefty who crushed them in the regular season and finished with a 17-4 record. Wainwright fits right in.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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