MLB Network Path to the World Series: Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Only twice before during the Wild Card era have the clubs with the best regular-season records in their respective leagues both advanced to meet in the World Series. It happened with the Braves and Indians in 1995 and again in '99, when the Yankees faced the Braves. Add 2013 to that list.

The Cardinals and Red Sox, both 97-game winners during the season, rode their best records and home-field advantage to a fourth Fall Classic meeting between the two storied franchises.

"I think the good storyline is you have two teams that have the best record in the game matching up in the World Series. I think that's nice," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "I think a lot of times, it doesn't work out that way historically, but this year, it did. You look at their club and obviously they're a very good team. The way we always look at things here in St. Louis is we worry about ourselves. Obviously, we have to play them, but if we play our game, we feel we have a chance to win."

The Cardinals, however, believe that the similarities between these two clubs extend beyond their records.

"You watch what they've been able to do compared to a year ago and you respect that kind of fight," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's the kind of team they have. They're a gritty team. I was listening to a lot of things that they had to say and it sounded very similar to a lot of things that we take pride in -- that this is about us, it's not about an individual. It's about doing the little things right. It's about family. It's us considering each other and thinking about the team, and those sort of things ring real true with us and what we've been able to do. You look at them and they had a strong season just like we did. It'll be a well-fought series."

Most of what the Cardinals know about the Red Sox comes through reputation and sound bites. They have had advanced scouts watching all of Boston's postseason games in preparation for this matchup, but the Cardinals have not met the Red Sox on the field since a 2008 Interleague series.

Ready to DH, Craig being considered for cleanup

Road to the World Series: Craig Could Be Key

ST. LOUIS -- After a second straight day of hitting off live pitching, Allen Craig again expressed no reservations about his readiness to serve as the Cardinals' designated hitter when the World Series opens in Boston on Wednesday (6:30 p.m. CT on FOX, with first pitch scheduled for 7).

Facing lefties Jaime Garcia and Sam Freeman, Craig took eight to 10 simulated at-bats before the Cardinals held a one-hour workout at Busch Stadium on Monday. Craig made solid contact several times and pushed himself through more mobility work as he nears the end of his recovery from a September foot injury.

"I felt good," Craig said afterward. "That's kind of what I'm focusing on right now, taking good at-bats. It feels good to get out there and compete against pitchers, even though they're guys on our own team. It's fun to take some serious at-bats."

The Cardinals intend to have Craig in their World Series lineup as a DH for the first two games. The only question now is where he'll fit in the batting order. He became manager Mike Matheny's regular cleanup hitter this season, moving around only briefly when Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday slumped.

Yadier Molina and Matt Adams have split time in the four-hole this postseason, depending upon the opposing starter. Asked if Craig, after his seven-week layoff, will slide back into the cleanup spot for the World Series, Matheny chose not to commit.

"I picture that he could do that," Matheny said. "Now whether that's exactly what we're going to do, obviously we go through it all. The way he's looking right now, if he's able to be active, there's no reason why he couldn't be back in that spot. But there's no reason he has to, either. There are other guys who can fill that role."

Musial greatly missed in Cards' postseason routine

ST. LOUIS -- The uniform patches and outfield decal have been a season-long reminder of the Cardinals family member lost this year. Stan Musial, who died at the age of 92 in January, has been honored and remembered by the organization throughout the 2013 season. A regular on-field presence during the postseason, his absence has been especially conspicuous this month.

As the Cardinals prepare for their 19th trip to the World Series, they do so with a nod to Musial. The greatest player in franchise history, Musial appeared in four World Series during his 22 seasons with the Cardinals. His last came in 1946, which was the first of now four Fall Classic meetings between the Cardinals and Red Sox.

St. Louis defeated Boston, 4-3, to take the World Series championship that season. Musial went 6-for-27 with three runs scored, four doubles, a triple and four RBIs in the seven-game Series. It capped a special season that began with Musial returning from military service and ended with him having taken the nickname "The Man" and having earned his second Most Valuable Player Award.

Worth noting

• On Monday, the Red Sox officially named lefty Jon Lester as their Game 1 starter for the World Series. Lester will face Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Neither the Cardinals nor the Red Sox have announced rotation plans beyond that first game.

• The Cardinals flew to Boston on Monday afternoon, shortly after holding a workout at Busch Stadium. In addition to the batting-practice session held for Allen Craig, the Cardinals took infield practice, batting practice and had several pitchers throw. The team will work out at Fenway Park from 1-3 p.m. CT on Tuesday.

• Shortly after long-time manager Jim Leyland announced that he was stepping down from his post on the Tigers, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny expressed his admiration for the job Leyland has done since beginning his managerial career in Pittsburgh in the mid-90s.

"I have a lot, a lot of respect for him," Matheny said. "Jim is somebody I spent some time with and was able to pick his brain as a player when he was helping us out. I have talked to him since about being a manager. He is somebody that, I believe, is one of those top-level people, top-level managers, and I have a lot of respect for how he went about his business. What a great run he's had."