World beaters in World Series: Red Sox, Cardinals were best regular-season teams

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, left, and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, left, and Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz are seen in this AP composite. (Oct. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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BOSTON - Team of the Decade isn't on the line in this World Series.

An argument can be made Team of the Last 10 Years is.

The World Series that starts Wednesday night at Fenway Park not only matches the two best teams this season -- the Red Sox and Cardinals each won 97 games -- but whichever team wins will claim their third championship of this century.

"It's fun to be part of this history, to be here in Fenway Park, to be part of this series," Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said. "We know that both organizations do a good job. It's fun to be a part of."

The Red Sox won World Series titles in 2004 -- sweeping the Cardinals in four games to win their first title since 1918 -- and 2007; the Cardinals took home the trophy in 2006 and 2011.

This is the first time since 1999, when the Yankees swept the Braves for the second of their three straight championships, that the World Series matches the best teams from each league.

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The clubs have won a total of 18 titles: 11 by St. Louis, seven by Boston.

"We definitely are aware of their past success, aware of ours," Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury said. "But at the end of the day, it's about winning four games. I know both teams are just dying to play. It's just going to be a hard-fought series. Both teams know how to win, both teams compete."

Lefthander Jon Lester, 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA this postseason, starts Game 1 for the Red Sox and will be opposed by Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright, 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA.

"I've been blessed because this is my third [World Series]," said Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who had just two hits in the ALCS against the Tigers but the biggest one of the six games, an eighth-inning, tying grand slam in Game 2. "It never gets old. You always want to be here, you always want to be a part of it. It's an honor for me to be back."

Ortiz is the only Red Sox player remaining from the 2004 Series. The Cardinals have two: righthander Chris Carpenter, though he's out with a shoulder injury, and Molina, the backup to Mike Matheny, now the Cards manager.

"The '04 Series is what, nine years ago?" Carpenter said. "Not many people left around from that, so we're not even concerning ourselves with what the '04 Series was all about."

Matheny said what this series will be about is two teams with similar offensive philosophies, first and foremost, making each and every at-bat a trip to the dentist chair for opposing pitchers.

"I think it's a team that's very similar to ours, they take a lot of pride in grinding at-bats," said Matheny, whose club beat the Dodgers in six games in the NLCS. "It's funny listening to their interviews . . . you hear some of the things that they say, and it's a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse about that it's about team; it's not about us individually. And grinding out at-bats and playing tough, playing hard, playing all the way through nine. Those are the things that I believe set good teams apart, and that's what they're all about."

Red Sox manager John Farrell, who in his first year in Boston led a turnaround from last season's 69-win train wreck, has used a specific word throughout this postseason to describe his team.

"There's a relentless approach to play a complete game every night," he said. "And I know that can be selling a broad brush, but we look to be relentless in every aspect of the game. And that's a mind-set, an attitude that we've worked hard at creating."

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