BOSTON -- After bouncing the 92-win Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series and then the 93-win Tigers in the AL Championship Series, the Red Sox still have their biggest challenge ahead of them if they want to reach their ultimate goal.
The Cardinals are packed with pitching, both in the rotation and in relief. Their offense, though not as prolific as the Red Sox, led the National League in most of the key categories.
To win it all, the Red Sox will have to click on all cylinders, even more than against the Rays and Tigers.
Beginning with Wednesday night's Game 1 of the World Series (airing at 7:30 ET on FOX/8:07 first pitch), here are three keys for the Red Sox in trying to win their first Fall Classic since '07.
Starters need to go deeper
The mantra that pitching coach Juan Nieves instilled in his starters all season was to outlast the opposing starter and to get to the eighth inning if at all possible.
Though they beat the Tigers in a thrilling ALCS, Boston got fewer than six innings from a starting pitcher in four of the six games.
The Sox have three relievers who have been stellar in this postseason -- Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara.
If manager John Farrell needs to go beyond those three with any frequency, Boston could be in trouble. It will be up to the rotation to prevent that from happening.
Time for the big guns to step up
David Ortiz hit the grand slam heard 'round Red Sox Nation -- and beyond -- in Game 2 of the ALCS. But aside from that, he only had one other hit in the series. Even at the age of 37, Ortiz remains the most impactful player in Boston's lineup. It's doubtful the Red Sox can win another series with him hitting .091.
Dustin Pedroia, considered by most to be the heart and soul of the Red Sox, has been quiet at the plate for the most part in this postseason. If he can get on base in front of Ortiz, it changes the entire complexion of Boston's offense.
Much like Ortiz, Shane Victorino hit a monumental grand slam in the ALCS, but he was otherwise unheard from at the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury and Victorino are the tablesetters that make Boston's offense go.
Set the tone early
In the previous two rounds, the Red Sox showed an ability to come back against the bullpens they were facing. If they plan on winning the World Series against the Cardinals, late-inning magic doesn't seem to be the way to go.
The Cards have a closer with dominant stuff in Trevor Rosenthal, who struck out 108 over 75 1/3 innings. Their setup crew is also plenty formidable, led by young guns Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness. Randy Choate is a solid veteran lefty specialist.
Boston's best recipe for success is to establish far more momentum against the opposing starter than they did in the last round. Against the likes of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, that's not going to be easy.