The Cardinals made a miraculous run just to make the playoffs and they stayed hot in the NLDS and NLCS. The Rangers have been better and more consistent all year though and get the Game 1 call.

The 2011 World Series kicks off on Wednesday night when C.J, Wilson and the Texas Rangers (103-69 overall, 47-39 away) pay a visit to Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals (97-76 overall, 48-38 home) in Game 1 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX.

The Cardinals made a miraculous run just to make the playoffs as a wild card, as they were 10½ games out in the wild card race as late as August 25, and even after a torrid stretch run combined with an epic collapse by the Atlanta Braves allowed St. Louis to gain the wild card spot, all that the Cardinals had to do was knock off the team with the best record on baseball and the heavy favorites to win it all, the Philadelphia Phillies, in the NLDS.

That monumental task accomplished, knocking of their division rival Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS must have seemed like a piece of cake, and they accomplished that feat in six games. St. Louis is now again facing a stronger team again though, and one that they are not familiar with at that, as a three-game series in 2004 during interleague play is the only time that the Cardinals and Rangers have ever met in the history of the franchises.

C.J. WilsonThe Rangers’ story this season is not nearly as dramatic, as they led the American League West practically from start to finish, made quick work of the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and then knocked of the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS in six games. Texas has been favored in each round of the playoffs so far, and the Rangers are now solid -154 favorites on the series odds at Legends Sports to win this World Series.

With that in mind, even though the Cardinals may have the starting pitching edge in Game 1, we are siding with the Rangers to draw first blood at a small underdog price.   

The current odds at Legends have Texas as a tiny +101 underdog for Game 1 Wednesday.

We understand why the Cardinals are favored in Game 1, as Chris Carpenter has been one of the best pitchers in the National League for several years now, he was the winning pitcher in the final game of the regular season in the contest that put the Cardinals in the playoffs, and he then shut out the Phillies in Philadelphia in the deciding game of the NLDS.

Carpenter was off to a slow start this season and thus finished at a disappointing 11-9 for the year. He did finish with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP though, so perhaps he did deserve a better fate, and he came up big late in the year and in the NLDS when it mattered most. He was only decent in his only start during the NLCS vs. the Brewers however, allowing three runs on six hits while lasting only five innings.

Also, Carpenter is not used to facing lineups like this in the National League, as the Rangers are batting .277 as a team for the whole year combining the regular season and the playoffs while averaging an impressive 5.40 runs per nine innings.

Now St. Louis has done everything right in the post-season, and that has included the bullpen pitching lights out after struggling the entire regular season. The Cardinals ranked 11th in the National League during the season with a 3.73 bullpen ERA, but they have responded by posting a 2.55 pen ERA in the playoffs despite trying out a new closer in Jason Motte. We must say we feel that pen has overachieved in the playoffs, so regression in this series would not surprise us.

The southpaw Wilson is the ace of the Texas staff, as he followed up his breakout 15-win year of 2010 by going 16-7 this season. Granted, he has not looked good in three post-season starts, but the St. Louis offense he is facing tonight is not as powerful as the American League teams that he has been beating all year, especially vs. left-handers.

Most impressively, Wilson actually put up better key numbers than Carpenter this season despite pitching in the more offensive league that uses the designated hitter, posting the lower ERA (2.94 vs. 3.45), WHIP (1.19 vs. 1.26) and especially opponents’ batting average against (.232 vs. .264).

Even with one of the best hitters in the game in Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have struggled vs. left-handed pitchers here at home this year, hitting a modest .249 against them while averaging a low 3.55 runs per nine innings. The fact that the St. Louis batters have never seen Wilson should make the lefty even tougher to hit. The last time the Cardinals faced a southpaw, Randy Wolf of the Brewers held them to two runs in seven innings, and Wilson has much better stuff than Wolf.

Finally, the Texas bullpen has also flourished during the playoffs with a 2.34 ERA, but unlike St. Louis, that has simply been a continuation of the fine work that the Rangers’ pen has been doing all year and we look for that success to continue in the World Series.

Look for the Cardinals’ struggles vs. southpaws to continue as Wilson pitches the Rangers to victory in Game 1.

MLB Pick: Rangers +101 (Game 1)