The hype is over. The hardball for the hardware is about to begin.
Tuesday was the climax of the two-day media blitz on Boston, where the St. Louis Cardinals descended upon Fenway Park in preparation for Game 1 of the 109th World Series, which begins Wednesday night. Adam Wainwright will get the ball for the Cardinals against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester in Game 1, which is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, with first pitch slated for 8:07.
Players from both teams on Tuesday gave their time to answer questions about the long, arduous and dramatic Road to the World Series that has culminated on Yawkey Way in the old ballpark with the odd features and the huge left-field wall called the Green Monster.
Much was made about the history between these two iconic Major League franchises, about how they met in the Fall Classic in 1946, 1967 and 2004, with the Cardinals winning the first two and the Red Sox sweeping them nine years ago to overcome the storied "curse."
Plans were laid out by St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Boston skipper John Farrell for their starting rotations.
The teams worked out on the Fenway field beneath a rainbow sky near the famed Citgo sign.
The anticipation was everywhere …
- St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 22, 2013
… and so was the seriousness of the impending task at hand.
- Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) October 22, 2013
As members of the media scrambled from table to table Tuesday, picking off players to expound on their roles and their thoughts on the October they just experienced and will soon live through in this ultimate best-of-seven fling for a ring, it became clear very quickly that Wednesday, long a dream, is now a reality.
For St. Louis, that means sticking to "The Cardinal Way," which, as Matheny explained, isn't all that different from the manner in which the Red Sox operate.
"I think it's a team that's very similar to ours," Matheny said. "They take a lot of pride in grinding at-bats. It's funny, listening to their interviews, all the way through this we've paid attention to all these teams. It's been great baseball to watch for people that just love the game. But you hear some of the things that they say, and it's a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse … that it's about team. It's not about us individually."
The Red Sox would agree, and they've made the most of their 25-man roster throughout these playoffs. On Tuesday, Farrell said he wasn't going to try to do anything differently once the bright lights of the World Series were flipped on.
"There's a relentless approach to play a complete game every night," Farrell said. "And I know that can be selling a broad brush, but we look to be relentless in every aspect of the game. And that's a mindset, an attitude that we've worked hard at creating. And I think that attitude is what has allowed us to come back from so many deficits this year and never give an at-bat away, and certainly play to the 27th out every night."
The first 27 -- or more -- of those outs are set for Wednesday, and it's a duel of aces, as it should be for a World Series lid-lifter. Wainwright, who was the Cardinals' closer during their magical run to a ring in 2006 but was on the shelf with an elbow injury when his club won it all in 2011, seems comfortable with his first Fall Classic as a No. 1 starter.
His job? To pitch so well that his team does just enough to keep Boston off the board and its dominant closer in the bullpen.
"We're going to do our very best to not let him pitch." - Adam Wainwright on Koji Uehara. #WorldSeries
- MLB (@MLB) October 22, 2013
Lester is tasked with matching Wainwright pitch for pitch, and judging from the veteran lefty's resume -- he's the last Red Sox pitcher to win a World Series game, having done it in 2007 -- and attitude going into this start, he's ready, too.
Work day. Focused. #NVRQT
- Jon Lester (@JLester31) October 22, 2013
The usual power-and-speed-packed lineups of the two teams that have performed so well throughout this postseason will be on display, with a few intriguing wrinkles.
The Cardinals, for example, will get the services of one of their best offensive players, Allen Craig , back at designated hitter after he missed all of the playoffs with a foot injury.
The Red Sox will go into the World Series with 21-year-old rookie Xander Bogaerts as their starting third baseman and an emerging force. Bogaerts took the reins at the hot corner during the latter half of the American League Championship Series and flourished.
Now it's up to the pitchers, and Game 1 and the rest of what should be a great Series will go from there.
"I don't want to make it like an ordinary game," Wainwright said. "I want this to mean even more than regular games. What I found throughout my playoff career so far is that I respond really well when the adrenaline really kicks in. I love that. The crowd gets louder. I get more fired up.
"I can't tell you how cool it is to pitch in front of great crowds like we're going to have tomorrow here in Boston, and we're going to have in St. Louis with that crisp, cool air, that Octobery kind of air, where you know it's playoff baseball."
Wednesday's World Series game
Cardinals (Wainwright) at Red Sox (Lester), 8:07 p.m. ET Preview >
2013 MLB POSTSEASON
Wild Card: Rays 4, Indians 0
Division Series: Red Sox beat Rays, 3-1 | Tigers beat A's, 3-2
Championship Series: Red Sox beat Tigers, 4-2
Wild Card: Pirates 6, Reds 2
Division Series: Cardinals beat Pirates, 3-2 | Dodgers beat Braves, 3-1
Championship Series: Cardinals beat Dodgers, 4-2
2013 postseason schedule
NL Division Series
Game 1: Cardinals 9, Pirates 1
Game 2: Pirates 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Pirates 5, Cardinals 3
Game 4: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1
Game 5: Cardinals 6, Pirates 1, St. Louis wins series, 3-2
Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1
Game 2: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Game 3: Dodgers 13, Braves 6
Game 4: Dodgers 4, Braves 3, Los Angeles wins series, 3-1
AL Division Series
Game 1: Red Sox 12, Rays 2
Game 2: Red Sox 7, Rays 4
Game 3: Rays 5, Red Sox 4
Game 4: Red Sox 3, Rays 1, Boston wins series, 3-1
Game 1: Tigers 3, A's 2
Game 2: A's 1, Tigers 0
Game 3: A's 6, Tigers 3
Game 4: Tigers 8, A's 6
Game 5: Tigers 3, A's 0, Detroit wins series, 3-2
NL Championship Series
Game 1: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (13 innings)
Game 2: Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0
Game 3: Dodgers 3, Cardinals 0
Game 4: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 2
Game 5: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4
Game 6: Cardinals 9, Dodgers 0, St. Louis wins series, 4-2
AL Championship Series
Game 1: Tigers 1, Red Sox 0
Game 2: Red Sox 6, Tigers 5
Game 3: Red Sox 1, Tigers 0
Game 4: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3
Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3
Game 6: Red Sox 5, Tigers 2, Boston win series, 4-2
World Series (All games on FOX)
Game 1: Cardinals at Red Sox, Wednesday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 2: Cardinals at Red Sox, Thursday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 3: Red Sox at Cardinals, Saturday, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
Game 4: Red Sox at Cardinals, Sunday, airtime 8 p.m. ET, game 8:15
*Game 5: Red Sox at Cardinals, Oct. 28, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
*Game 6: Cardinals at Red Sox, Oct. 30, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
*Game 7: Cardinals at Red Sox, Oct. 31, airtime 7:30 p.m. ET, game 8:07
* - if necessary