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WS2011 Gm1: Wilson faces Carpenter in Game 1 showdown

ST. LOUIS -- The Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals left an indelible mark on viewers of the two League Championship Series. When we last glimpsed these two clubs, they were scoring a total of 27 runs in clinching Game 6.

That is far from the postseason norm and for the Rangers, it is also a long way from their experience in the 2010 World Series, when their imposing offense was stopped by superior pitching from the San Francisco Giants.

This time around in the LCS, both the Cards and the Rangers made life miserable for postseason starters. Two deep and powerful lineups could not be contained, and both teams advanced to the World Series via lopsided clinching victories.

Now, the task of setting a new tone for the 2011 World Series and restoring order on the mound will fall to the starting pitchers in Game 1 on Wednesday.

Chris Carpenter for St. Louis and C.J. Wilson for Texas are the aces of their respective rotations. Carpenter has the better postseason pedigree -- 7-2 with a 3.11 ERA, as opposed to Wilson's 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA. But Wilson, in his second full season as a starter, had a fine regular season -- 16-7, 2.94.

The task for Carpenter and Wilson is truly substantial. The Rangers were third in the Major Leagues in runs scored. The Cardinals were fifth. Both clubs have power and depth in their lineups.

"It sure seems like there are quite a few similarities with the danger in the lineups," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday.

"Their starting pitching is like ours. If this becomes a starting pitching series, don't be surprised. The talent is there. But there's really good offenses. What's happening is, I've said it before, a guy is not sharp, the offenses are creating damage, so you go to a reliever, for both of us."

Rangers manager Ron Washington suggested that the Series could go in either direction -- pitching or offense.

"If everything falls into place and their starters do what they want them to do, and our starters do what we want them to do, I think we can match up in the bullpen with anyone, just as the Cardinals can match up in the bullpen with anyone, and then we'll see where it goes from there," Washington said Tuesday.

"But if there's a lot of mistakes made, you think you'll see the ball flying out of the ballpark, I think you'll see hits all over the place, I think you'll start seeing some exciting baseball. But we depend on our starting pitching, and our bullpen is solid."

Carpenter was a major factor in the Cardinals getting through the postseason to this point. His 1-0, complete-game victory in Game 5 over the Phillies in the National League Division Series was a postseason gem. Various recent reports had Carpenter suffering from an elbow problem, but both the pitcher and the manager dismissed those. "If he wasn't sound, he wouldn't pitch," La Russa said.

One of the typical subplots in a World Series is often the contest between managers, the maneuvers that can mean the difference between victory and defeat. La Russa is a living legend in this regard. Washington, like the 28 other managers in the Majors, doesn't have La Russa's resume. But Washington has an incisive baseball mind and the full respect of his players as a managerial decision-maker.

Washington showed his mental agility Tuesday when asked what it would be liking "matching wits" with La Russa.

"Well, I don't think I can ever live up to matching a wit with Tony La Russa," Washington said. "But what I will try to do is put my players in the right position. And if my players perform, I don't have to worry about matching wits; they'll take care of things."

Two potent offenses have helped to deliver these teams to this October moment. But success in the Fall Classic so often is dependent upon quality pitching. Which trend will hold up, the historical or the recent? Does one of these clubs have pitching good enough to stifle the other team's offense and take over this World Series?

Carpenter and Wilson will try to answer those questions in a Game 1 contest that normally would be seen as an excellent October pitching matchup. This October, starting pitching has been a relatively temporary role. These two, in theory at least, are good enough to return pitching to its usual lofty October status.

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