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Boston strong verses new-look Cardinals
APTOPIX World Series  Heal WEB
With a "B strong" emblem on the Green Monster wall in honor of the Boston Marathon bombing surviviors, Boston Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia holds a bat during team baseball practice at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday. The Red Sox are preparing to face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday. - photo by Associated Press

By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer

    BOSTON — Walking back to his Fenway Park office after the traditional Patriots Day morning Red Sox game, Charles Steinberg saw the reports on TV that there had been explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line.
    He saw video of the damage on Boylston Street. He heard the police say that a fire at the John F. Kennedy Library might be related. And he thought to himself, "We're next."
    "That added to the dread," said Steinberg, an executive vice president with the Red Sox who orchestrates many of their pregame ceremonies. "Because your thought then is that if this is a sequence of attacks on iconic Boston locales, Fenway Park could easily be next."
    The Red Sox staff quickly and obediently evacuated the ballpark, but Steinberg and his assistants soon went back to plan for the team's return from Cleveland, where it went directly from the Monday morning game.
    The result was an emotional ceremony that stretched into a season-long tribute to honor the victims, doctors and nurses, police and other first-responders who were there for the explosions and their aftermath.
    "I think it was a moment and time that enabled us to galvanize in a certain way," manager John Farrell said Monday as the Red Sox prepared for the World Series. "It was an opportunity for our players to understand their importance to the city and what the Red Sox players mean to this region."

With a "B Strong" logo on the Green Monster, one on their uniforms and another shaved into the Fenway grass, the Red Sox advanced to the World Series on Saturday night for the third time in 10 years. They will open at home against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, and Steinberg is working with Major League Baseball to devise an appropriate way to honor those killed and wounded the week of the April 15 bombings.

Inside the Red Sox clubhouse, the tribute goes on.

Shane Victorino, whose grand slam clinched the AL championship series against Detroit, wore a "B Strong" shirt that read, "In support of all victims." Enlarged copies of Jonny Gomes' "Boston Strong" Sports Illustrated cover are all around. Above Mike Napoli's locker is a patch from the Boston police, who helped apprehend suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after a daylong, city-wide lockdown.

"What I can tell you is that I don't know that one can be more proud of how the players have acted, reacted to the people who have been affected," Steinberg said. "They took the initiative, shunning the help that we might typically give them."

Three people were killed and more than 260 wounded in the attacks; an MIT police officer was also killed in a shootout during the manhunt. Even before they returned from the three-day road trip, the Red Sox sent their best wishes back to Boston, posing in the visitors' clubhouse with a "B Strong" banner; a Red Sox jersey reading "Boston Strong" with the city's 617 area code hung in the dugout for that game.

And then, when the team returned from Cleveland, the franchise that defined baseball selfishness decades ago with the expression "25 players, 25 cabs" split into five groups of five and visited the five local hospitals where the bombing victims were being treated.

"These guys were able to throw a city on its backs — follow us, we're going to help out any way possible," Gomes said. "I'm just so fortunate that I'm in a position where I have a profession that I can do that to people. But, at the same time, you've got to remember the four people that aren't able to come to a game again and their families and their legends they left behind. We know that in the back of our head there's four angels up above pulling for us."

Steinberg said the players went to clubhouse manager Tommy McLaughlin and asked him to make up the tribute jersey in Cleveland. Will Middlebrooks' tweet of the "BostonStrong" hashtag gave it a spike that lingers still. The players arranged among themselves to visit the hospitals, without the usual help or prodding of the marketing and community relations departments.

"It was so genuine. It was so sincere," reliever Craig Breslow said. "Any response you saw came from the players — because that's what they wanted to do, not because that's what would look good."

And fans have repaid the favor.

"It's a huge part of our success in the playoffs," Gomes said. "Those fans would not allow us to have the wind taken out of our sails all the way."

Outfielder Daniel Nava remembers his disappointment that the team couldn't go straight to the hospital after returning from Cleveland; because of the manhunt, the city was shut down that Friday and the game was postponed. By the time players were able to visit the victims, it was a week after the attacks.

"We tried to provide any hope and support to anyone that lost a leg or a limb," he said. "But their attitude was actually better than ours. By the time we left, those people — what happened to them, and they survived — they're telling us to keep our heads up. We're saying, 'Us? What about you guys?'

"They did a lot more for us than we did for them," Nava added. "At least, that's how I walked out from it."

By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer

    ST. LOUIS — Rosters turn over so quickly these days, the St. Louis Cardinals used only seven players from their 2011 World Series roster in this year's NL championship series.
    The NL champions got contributions from 20 rookies this season, many in starring roles on a team that led the NL with 97 wins and then reached the World Series for the second time in three years.
    General manager John Mozeliak sees little commonalities, pointing out that the '11 team sneaked into the postseason as the second wild card and this year's team that until now has had the home-field advantage.
    "The good story line is you've got two teams that have the best records in the game matching up in the World Series," Mozeliak said. "And I think that's nice. A lot of times, that doesn't work out."
    Lance Lynn is the only pitcher left from two years ago, joined against the Dodgers by position players Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay. Cleanup man Allen Craig, sidelined by a foot injury since early September, is expected to join them in the Series and would open as the DH.

The first time Craig would have to play first base is Game 3 Friday in St. Louis, and everyone's optimistic especially given those extra rehab days. Craig's .454 average with runners in scoring position led the majors, and aside from the Cardinals' clinching 9-0 rout of the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, the offense has struggled without him.

"He could be the difference," Molina said. "I'm happy to have him back."

When the Cardinals were swept by Boston in the 2004 Series, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal were in middle school.

Wacha was a first-round selection in June 2012 — the Cardinals' compensation pick for losing Albert Pujols to the Angels in free agency — scaled the system quickly and has been phenomenal in the postseason at 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA. He's been to Fenway Park once before, as a sophomore at Texas A&M playing for a college all-star team but didn't play.

"It's unbelievable, just the history," Wacha said. "It's Fenway, it's an amazing ballpark and I just really look forward to getting to play there."

St. Louis worked out Sunday after a day off to savor the NL pennant. They leave for Boston on Tuesday, and just a handful have firsthand experience of the ill-fated 105-win team that got swept by the Red Sox.

"That was one of the toughest experiences in my baseball career," said manager Mike Matheny, who shared catching duties with Molina that year. "You don't forget that."

Matheny said the feeling was similar to the nausea he felt as a rookie manager in the 2012 postseason when the Cardinals took a 3-1 NLCS lead over the Giants and then got walloped three straight times, in his words "getting our lunch handed to us."

"It's a lot like what happened last year as we were standing in the rain watching San Francisco celebrate," Matheny said. "Could we have done anything different? I don't know. But it sure left a sharp bite."

Ace Chris Carpenter was sidelined before that postseason with the first occurrence of a nerve injury that knocked him out all of this season. Carpenter still suits up but in a ceremonial role as a de facto bench coach.

Mozeliak was assistant GM under Walt Jocketty in '04 and remembered everything seeming rushed. The Cardinals beat the Astros in the NLCS, took batting practice at Fenway the next afternoon and then took the first of four lumps.

Off the field, manager Tony La Russa took issue with distant lodging and the "bar food" offered when they arrived at the hotel.

Molina was a 21-year-old rookie in 2004. This year, he's in the conversation for MVP.

"Back then I was just a kid trying to learn," Molina said. "I have a lot more experience."

Carpenter is among four players from '11 that are still with the team but won't be on the roster. Shortstop Rafael Furcal (elbow) also has been out the entire season, Jaime Garcia is rehabbing from midseason shoulder surgery and Jake Westbrook was rarely used the final month coming off elbow and back woes.

Putting Craig on the roster could come at the expense of rookie Kolten Wong, one of the team's top prospects and the likely second baseman of the future.

"We don't have that many extra guys around here that we'd be jostling around what our roster's going to look like," Matheny said.

Matheny announced Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner who was injured in 2011, and Wacha as the starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2, but didn't go further. Joe Kelly and Lynn are likely to go in Games 3 and 4, given Mozeliak anticipates rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller will stay in the bullpen for emergency long relief duty.

Miller has pitched just one inning in the postseason and threw to Craig on Sunday.

"I think right now where he's at, I think he'll still be probably used as insurance," Mozeliak said.