Lineup: The Rangers scored 39 runs in their six-game ALCS victory over Detroit. The Cardinals scored 43 runs in their six-game NLCS victory over Milwaukee. Neither result is particularly fluky. Both of these teams can get on base and slug. The Rangers have greater lineup depth -- ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz has been hitting seventh -- while the Cardinals can boast of the greater middle with Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and NLCS MVP David Freese. When you factor in the designated hitter, the Rangers have the slight advantage. Edge: Texas.
Starting pitching: The Achilles heel for both clubs in the LCS, which probably means that both will defy the trends and perform better this round. The comparison is similar to the lineup; the Cardinals throw the guys (Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia) more likely to dominate a given game, but the Rangers boast of greater rotation depth, as C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison all posted strong 2011 seasons in the superior league. Wilson, the impending free agent, has been a mess in the postseason. Edge: St. Louis.
Bullpen: Now here are two units that have earned their postseason shares. Goodness gracious. Yes, both teams' starting pitchers struggled in the LCS, but the success of both teams' bullpens made it easier for managers Tony La Russa and Ron Washington to shift gears so quickly. Both teams field multiple lefties (Arthur Rhodes and Marc Rzepczynksi for St. Louis, Mike Gonzalez and Darren Oliver for Texas) and hard-throwing righty setup men (Octavio Dotel for St. Louis, Mike Adams for Texas). One difference: The Rangers have used the same closer all season (Neftali Feliz) while St. Louis has rotated, with Jason Motte currently getting the chances. Edge: Even.
Bench: We have your classic NL-AL comparison in this category. The Rangers will have a potent bat on the bench in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 because they won't be starting a DH, and the Cardinals have guys more accustomed to part-time work. We'll see whether the Rangers bench their all-time great Michael Young, who normally DHs against righties. Yorvit Torrealba has become a trusted bat in addition to the second catcher behind Mike Napoli. St. Louis' Allan Craig, Daniel Descalso and Ryan Theriot should play roles, and the Rangers' trio of lefty starting pitchers should further spread out the St. Louis at-bats. Edge: Texas.
Manager: Washington is like no other manager in baseball. Not in the way he deals with his players, which inspires strong loyalty; nor in the extremely bold way he manages a game; nor with his garrulous manner in media interactions. He's impressive and fun to watch. It just so happens that Washington is going against the third-winningest manager in baseball history who's enjoying one of his finest runs. No, with the Cardinals' late-season rally, their NLCS defeat of Philadelphia and the pennant, this is La Russa's world right now. The rest of us are just supporting characters. Edge: St. Louis.
Prediction: St. Louis in 6. The Cardinals' starters will sufficiently contain the Rangers' lineup, and La Russa will navigate his club to the third championship of his Hall of Fame career. World Series MVP Albert Pujols will hit three home runs.