Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's not often you get a World Series that features the two best teams in baseball.
We will have that this year, though, when the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals kick off the 109th edition of the Fall Classic at Fenway Park.
Both Boston and St. Louis topped their respective leagues with identical 97-65 marks. Actually, it's the first time since 1999 (Yankees and Braves) that the best teams in each league will be facing off in this round and only the third time it's happened since baseball went to the division series/wild card format in 1995.
Of course, this is also a rematch of the memorable 2004 World Series that saw the Red Sox exorcise generations of demons with a four-game sweep of the Cardinals to claim their first World Series title since 1918,
St. Louis had beaten the Red Sox the two other times these historic franchises had met in October.
The Red Sox may not have their way with the Cardinals the way they did nine years ago, but when it's all said and done, there should be another "Rolling Rally" through the streets of Boston a little over a week from now.
Was there a more nondescript signing this offseason than when the Red Sox added a right-handed reliever named Koji Uehara? It was about as under-the- radar a transaction as you will find, but Uehara has become the most important player on the Red Sox.
It looked bleak for John Farrell's club when not one, but two closers went down with season-ending injuries. Uehara, though, stepped in for both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey and simply put forth one of the best statistical seasons by a reliever in Major League Baseball history.
Just how good was he?
Well, Uehara's mind-blowing 0.57 walks plus hits per nine innings was the lowest in baseball history by a pitcher who logged at least 50 innings, eclipsing Dennis Eckersley's 0.61 standard set in 1989 by a considerable margin.
Also, his 1.09 ERA this season was the best in the majors of any pitcher with 50 or more innings. Plus, he hasn't walked a batter in any of his last 30 appearances and is pitching to a 0.61 ERA in all of his save chances, including the postseason.
Uehara has saved five games for the Red Sox through the first two rounds of the playoffs to go along with a 1.00 ERA. The only run he allowed was a walk- off home run to Tampa catcher Jose Lobaton in his ALDS Game 3 loss to the Rays.
But, it hasn't been just him, either.
Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Franklin Morales, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront have combined for a 0.84 ERA, 28 strikeouts and a .209 batting average against in 32 innings of relief this postseason.
The bullpen has made it real easy on Farrell, whose starting staff hasn't been that sharp with the exception of Jon Lester. Boston's starters pitched to a 4.78 ERA against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and are 4-2 with a 4.29 ERA this postseason.
Speaking of Game 1 starter Lester, he could prove to be very important right out of the gate, as the Cardinals managed just a .238 average against left- handers this postseason.
Lester has been by far the best starting pitcher this October for the Red Sox and is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
Another thing to watch here is the health of Clay Buchholz. Apparently, he may not be right, and his 5.40 ERA indicates as much. But, if he can't go, expect the Red Sox to throw another lefty, Felix Doubront, at the Cardinals in either Game 3 or 4.