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Rangers: Adrian Beltre. Brought in as a free agent, Beltre certainly provided the power and defense Texas was looking for when it signed him to an $80 million, five-year contract in the offseason. He batted .296 with 32 HRs and 105 RBIs despite missing six weeks with a strained left hamstring. He hit 12 HRs in the last 16 regular-season games, then connected three times in the first-round clincher at Tampa Bay.

Cardinals: David Freese. The kid who grew up a Cardinals fan in the St. Louis suburbs made a national name for himself during the NL championship series, batting .545 (12 for 22) with three HRs, three doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs to take home MVP honors. He brings a 10-game postseason hitting streak into the World Series. Now in his third big league season, the 28-year-old Freese has been a little slow to blossom, partly because of injuries. But he gives the Cardinals another dangerous bat in an already potent lineup.

Edge: Rangers.


Rangers: Mike Napoli. Traded twice in five days last January, Napoli found a home in Texas and had a huge second half. One of the game’s most underrated hitters, he finished with a .320 average, 30 HRs and 75 RBIs in only 369 at-bats. He came up clutch in the playoffs, too, hitting .316 with a homer and five RBIs. Napoli’s defense behind the plate appears to have improved. He also saw time at first base and DH this season.

Cardinals: Yadier Molina. Maybe the game’s best defensive catcher, Molina showed new pop with the stick this season, hitting .305 with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs _ all career highs. He batted .412 during St. Louis’ last World Series appearance, a five-game victory over Detroit in 2006, after hitting a decisive homer in Game 7 of the NLCS that year. Beware baserunners: the three-time All-Star loves to show off his rocket arm.

Edge: Cardinals, but it’s close.

Left Field

Rangers: David Murphy. Often overlooked near the bottom of the lineup, Murphy is a professional hitter who gives a tough at-bat and knows how to drive in runs. He batted .275 with 11 HRs and 46 RBIs this season, then quietly hit .391 during the AL playoffs. His bat plays well off the bench, too.

Cardinals: Matt Holliday. The five-time All-Star was limited to 124 games by injuries and illness this season. He missed time early in the playoffs while recovering from an inflamed tendon on his right ring finger, then got rolling in the NLCS against Milwaukee with a .435 average and five RBIs. His defense can be shaky, but Holliday’s tremendous strength makes him a home run threat to all fields.

Edge: Cardinals.

Center Field

Rangers: Josh Hamilton. One of the game’s great natural talents, Hamilton was the AL MVP and ALCS MVP last season. Now, he’d like a World Series ring to cap his incredible comeback story from drug and alcohol addiction. Hamilton played mostly left field this year and missed six weeks early on with a non-displaced fracture at the top of his right arm after trying to score on a foul popup at Detroit. He batted .298 with 25 HRs and 94 RBIs in 121 games. He does not have a homer yet this postseason, but is hitting .293 with five doubles and seven RBIs.

Cardinals: Jon Jay. After trading Colby Rasmus in late July, the Cardinals needed someone who could cover ground in center between Holliday and Lance Berkman. They turned to Jay, a 26-year-old left-handed hitter who batted .297 with 10 HRs and 37 RBIs.

Edge: Rangers.

Story Continues →