Every year, every major sport comes down to two teams. Usually, there's some sort of narrative framing that championship match-up. This year, MLB does not disappoint, and gives the people a trope they've come to expect: team on a roll, usually through some sort of improbable circumstance, versus a team that is defying some odds.
The St. Louis Cardinals get to play the role of the former, shocking most casual fans with their astonishing run through the post-season and winding up only four wins away from the ultimate validation. The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, are a firm lock in the latter category, having raced to the World Series last year, after a long, long drought, and battling all year to get back.
When these two teams meet on Wednesday night, they'll start things off in St. Louis, which has home-field advantage thanks to the All-Star Game. The best of seven series follows a 2-3-2 format, ensuring that Texas' fans will be packing the stands in the middle of the series, regardless of the result.
There's the mini-drama over Lance Berkman, a free agent last year who was pursued by the Rangers, but ultimately spurned them for the Cardinals. There's the amazing rate of the Ranger's bullpen, which is producing at a rate that is almost embarrassing for the starters. And, of course, there's the danger of St. Louis' powerful offense, combining Albert Pujols – perhaps the best hitter in baseball – with David Freese and the aforementioned Berkman.
Predictions, however, are hard to come by. These teams, with their varied styles and the differing ways they got to this point, play a somewhat even game. When forced to come with a prediction, though, I've got to go with the Rangers in seven games. These teams are so close, it's going to be a full series. We're going to see some beautiful baseball. But ultimately, only one of the familiar stories will get to be told. This is the year for the Rangers.