The World Series will feature a matchup of two sluggers with most valuable player awards — Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The championship will also showcase two emerging players making a name for themselves with each home run swing — Nelson Cruz and David Freese.
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals will meet in the baseball classic starting Wednesday at 8:05 p.m. ET.
The first game of the best-of-seven series is at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, with ace pitchers Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and C.J. Wilson set to start. Texas is considered a narrow favourite.
The National League holds home-field advantage this year because it won the all-star game. The weather forecast, which looked good earlier in the week, calls for a 40 per cent chance of rain and a temperature of 4 C.
'I think we're a team that can match up with them a little bit. And they're confident, we're confident.' — Cardinals IF/OF David Freese on the Texas Rangers
Other than a three-game regular season series in 2004 in Texas, this will be the only time the Cardinals and Rangers have met. It matches the fewest games between a pair of opponents in the Major Leagues, tying the New York Mets versus the Chicago White Sox.
"The Rangers are scary. They're a scary team," said Freese, the MVP in the National League championship series victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. "You look at that lineup, you look at that staff. It's going to be a battle.
"I think we're a team that can match up with them a little bit. And they're confident, we're confident. It's been a tough road. I've definitely been watching the ALCS for sure. That's some good ball over there."
St. Louis has won 10 Worlds Series titles, second-most to the New York Yankees' 27. Manager Tony La Russa, Pujols and the Cardinals last took it in 2006.
Texas is looking for its first Series championship, having lost to the San Francisco Giants in its first appearance last year.
"We weren't very happy with the results, and we certainly knew that we were a better team than we showed," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
It will be an old-school World Series: top names on both sides, many of them facing each other for the first time — the way it was before American League and NL clubs began playing each other all through the summer.
Stan Musial might even be at the ballpark next week. The 90-year Hall of Famer who helped the Cardinals win three World Series crowns was at Busch Stadium during the playoffs for pre-game ceremonies.
Musial and the Cardinals beat Ted Williams and the Red Sox in the 1946 Series. More than a quarter-century later, Williams became the first manager in Texas history after the franchise moved from Washington.
This year, hardly anyone expected St. Louis to make it this far, especially when it was 10 1/2 games out of a playoff spot Aug. 25. A sensational run in the last month, plus a tremendous collapse by Atlanta, gave the Cardinals the NL wild-card spot on the final day of the regular season.
The Cardinals did what many fans considered almost impossible in the first round — they eliminated the heavily favoured Philadelphia Phillies. Carpenter beat Roy Halladay 1-0 in the decisive Game 5, then St. Louis relied on its bullpen every day to beat Milwaukee in the NLCS.
Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and the Cards' crew shut down Prince Fielder and the Brewers, capped by a 12-6 win in Game 6 Sunday night.
Moves paid off
A resurgent Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and the emerging Freese got a boost in the lineup from trade-deadline addition Rafael Furcal, one of several moves by general manager John Mozeliak that worked out well.
The Cardinals also got help — some might believe — from a squirrel that scampered right in front of home plate during a playoff game in St. Louis.
The Rangers powered to the AL West title this year. Texas began the playoffs by beating Tampa Bay in four games and defeated Detroit in the six-game ALCS. Cruz was the MVP against the Tigers, hitting six home runs with 13 runs batted in.
Closer Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman and two of GM Jon Daniels' additions — Mike Adams and Michael Gonzalez — keyed a bullpen that dominated the post-season.
And, oh, about those previous Cardinals-Rangers games. St. Louis won two of three in June 2004, with the Cardinals' lone loss coming when Young and Texas hammered Carpenter.
Carpenter will see a packed Texas lineup, including Michael Young, in the opener.
"I haven't thought a lick about it," Carpenter said after Sunday night's clincher. "I'm excited for our ballclub, I'm excited for our organization. Unbelievable. This group of guys, I've been saying all year long, it's the most amazing group of guys I've been around."
The Series shifts to Arlington for Game 3 Saturday. The next day, there will be a doubleheader in Texas, of sorts — St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys, then Cardinals at Rangers.