St. Louis Advances to Face Detroit in World Series

The Detroit Tigers meet the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday in Major League Baseball's World Series. The Cardinals won a dramatic contest against the New York Mets to advance to baseball's championship series. But the surprise of the year has been Detroit.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Two baseball teams that few people expected to see is still standing will meet in game one of the World Series. The Detroit Tigers host the St. Louis Cardinals tomorrow night to begin the best of seven fall classic.

The Cardinals earned their spot in the series last night in New York when they beat the Mets to win the National League Championship Series in seven games.

Commentator John Feinstein joins me now. Good morning, John.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: So did you actually think it would be the Cardinals who would go all the way?

FEINSTEIN: Oh no, absolutely not. The Cardinals stumbled to the finish line in the regular season. They'll go into the World Series with the second worst record of any team to ever play in a World Series.

Only the 1973 - ironically - New York Mets had a worse record than the Cardinals were 83 and 78. And backed into the playoffs only because the Houston Astros lost on the last day of the regular season. But they played superb baseball against a Mets team that, even though their pitching staff was beaten up, they'd won 97 games during the regular season.

And this is the great irony of baseball. The way the game ended last night with a weak-hitting catcher, Yadier Molina, hitting the two-run game-winning homerun and the game ending with Carlos Beltran of the Mets, who in all likelihood will be the MVP of the National League, not being able come through with the bases loaded and two outs.

WERTHEIMER: John, Tony LaRussa has managed for a long time. He's actually won one World Series. I guess this would be a very good way for him to go out, a second Series before he retires.

FEINSTEIN: Well, Tony LaRussa is being called everything from a genius to the most overrated manager in history. He's managed for 28 seasons now with three different teams.

And you're right, this will be his fifth World Series. And if he were to add another one to the one he won in 1989 - and that one even was overlooked a little bit because you may remember the San Francisco earthquake took place during that World Series - it would be a crowning achievement for his career, which is a Hall of Fame career anyway, in my opinion.

WERTHEIMER: The story of the year, though, is surely the Tigers, right?

FEINSTEIN: No question. This is a team that three years ago lost 119 games, one game short of the Mets' ‘62 record for futility. Even last year lost 91 games, 20 games under .500 and played great baseball. Although they stumbled toward the end of the regular season, lost the first game of the playoffs to the Yankees.

And since then they've won seven straight games. They swept the Oakland A's. Jim Leyland is clearly the manager of the year. And the irony in this is that Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa are best friends and now they will be managing against one another in the World Series.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think the Tigers did to get all the way there.

FEINSTEIN: Young pitching, that's the way you rebuild in baseball. It's always about young pitching. Dave Dombrowski, their general manager, who built the Florida Marlins in 1997 managed by Jim Leyland, not coincidentally, to a World Series title.

Just sent those young pitchers out and even though they were beaten up in 2003, 2004, 2005, they kept getting better. Now they've landed in the World Series.

WERTHEIMER: So, John, who wins?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm going to put the jinx on the Tigers. I think they've been the best team in baseball for most of the year and I think they have better pitching, stronger pitching. They're rested. They finished their series last Saturday. The Cardinals had to play till last night.

So I'm going to pick the Tigers. And that means they can probably start celebrating in St. Louis, given my record as a prognosticator.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Thanks, John.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: The comments of John Feinstein, author of Next Man Up: Behind the Lines in Today's NFL.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: It's NPR News.

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