Game 3 To Break Tie In World Series Battle

The World Series is tied at one game apiece and moves to St. Louis. The Cardinals host the Boston Red Sox for Game 3 Saturday night. Pitching and opportunistic play have been key for both teams' wins so far.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

And it's time for sports. The World Series has shifted to the Midwest for the next three nights. The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox are tied at one game apiece. Both teams showed their strengths and a few weaknesses in the first two games in Boston.

NPR's Tom Goldman is covering the action this weekend at St. Louis' famed Busch Stadium. I spoke with him just before tonight's game.

So any surprises in the series so far, Tom?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, yeah, I would say so. You know, these are obviously two excellent teams, the two best teams in the Major Leagues record-wise going into the World Series. As good as they are, though, what's been a surprise has been critical errors have played a big part in determining who won games one and two.

There were the St. Louis errors in the first game. In game two, Craig Breslow, the veteran relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, been having a very good post season. His wild throw into the stance behind third base allowed the go-ahead run for St. Louis to score, and then Breslow gave up another run that same inning.

So as good as these teams have been, it has been these errors that have been key turning points.

RATH: It's got to feel good for the Cardinals to win a game in Boston. Now that they're home, you think they're going to have a big edge?

GOLDMAN: Well, I think so. You know, and we should caution - you shouldn't say big edge at all in this series because these two teams are very, very evenly matched, even though St. Louis has snatched away the home field advantage by winning one in Boston. But I do think the Cards do have several advantages coming back to St. Louis: obviously, the home field advantage that any team gets playing in their home stadium, comfortable surroundings, fans cheering for them.

But other reasons is we lose the designated hitter now that we're going back to the National League Park. Of course, the designated hitter was an American League creation. And according to Sports Illustrated, since 2001, American League teams are 11 and 22 in National League ballparks in the World Series. So it does have an effect. The Red Sox are faced with this difficult choice: who do they sit, Mike Napoli or David Big Papi Ortiz, because they both can't play.

Ortiz has been the designated hitter in Boston, and Napoli has been the first baseman. You can't play both. They've both, you know, done really well at the plate, but especially Big Papi. He's hit a home run in each game. He almost had two in one game. His bat is very hot right now. You can't sit him. On the other hand, Napoli has been great too. He's the better defender. So difficult choices for Boston's manager.

RATH: Finally, Tom, I want to ask you about the facial hair variable. Maybe Boston didn't play as well in game two because maybe the huge bushy beards are too itchy.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: You know, it's reported that Mike Napoli, who's got probably the bushiest, shampoos and conditions his. So I don't think he's got the itch problem. Arun, you know, this World Series is billed as the birds versus the beards. I wonder with some of those beards like Napoli's and Johnny Gum's, what kind of birds are nesting in those? Those are some wicked thick beards, as they might say in Boston. Anyway, we don't know who's going to win this thing yet, the beards or the birds. We will just have to see.

RATH: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks. Enjoy the game.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Thank you.

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