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Cardinals: Yadier Molina. Baseball’s best defensive catcher has turned into quite a hitter, too. Molina batted .319 with 44 doubles and 80 RBIs this season, not to mention his gifted handling of St. Louis’ young pitching staff. No wonder he’s a top MVP candidate. Possessing a rocket arm, Molina threw out 19 of 45 attempted base-stealers this year. The Red Sox like to run, so that could be an intriguing matchup.
Red Sox: Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A switch-hitter with power, "Salty" is another hairy member of Boston’s beard brigade. He strikes out an awful lot, but when he gets a hold of one he can hit it a long way. And he probably hasn’t received enough credit for the job he’s done with an eclectic Red Sox pitching staff. David Ross also gets the occasional start behind the plate.
Cardinals: Matt Holliday. A six-time All-Star, Holliday is a streaky hitter who nevertheless puts up consistent power numbers by the end of each season. He remains a legitimate thumper in the middle of the lineup, though his defense can be shaky. That could come into play at Fenway Park with the Green Monster right behind him.
Red Sox: Jonny Gomes or Daniel Nava. Another one of the gritty and grizzled newcomers contributing to Boston’s success, Gomes brings a power bat and an upbeat attitude. Yes, he’s prone to strikeouts, but he’ll also work a walk. Sound familiar in this lineup? The Red Sox are 6-0 when he starts this postseason. Nava is an underrated switch-hitter who batted .303 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs this year.
Cardinals: Jon Jay or Shane Robinson. While his best attribute is a quality glove, Jay can hit the ball in the gap or steal a bag. He batted .206 without an extra-base hit in the playoffs, so Robinson started against a lefty in the NLCS clincher. With more power than expected for a little guy, Robinson is 3 for 8 in the postseason with three RBIs — including a pinch-hit homer at Dodger Stadium. He also is a solid defender.
Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury. The speedy sparkplug that gets Boston going, Ellsbury is a big reason the Red Sox scored 57 more runs than any other team this season. He spent most of September on the disabled list with a broken right foot, yet barely missed a beat. After leading the majors with 52 steals (in 56 tries), he swiped 6 of 7 in the AL playoffs while batting .400. He can become a free agent this fall, and while Ellsbury already is recognized as one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters, a big World Series could only boost his asking price.
Edge: Red Sox.
Cardinals: Carlos Beltran. With 12 RBIs this postseason, the 36-year-old Beltran has only added to his resume as one of the game’s greatest playoff performers. He’s finally in the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career after three painful losses in Game 7 of the NLCS. An eight-time All-Star, Beltran doesn’t run as well as he used to, but he’s still a frightening force at the plate in clutch situations. The switch-hitter can become a free agent again after the season.
Red Sox: Shane Victorino. One of those winning players who is much better than his statistics will ever show. As manager Joe Maddon of the rival Rays put it, the speedy Victorino "drips with intangibles." In a fascinating move, he gave up switch-hitting this season, his first with Boston after signing a $39 million, three-year deal, and now bats exclusively right-handed. That has led to more power (15 homers to go with 21 steals) from "The Flyin’ Hawaiian." He beat Tampa Bay in the division series with an infield single and finished off Detroit in the ALCS with a grand slam.
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