BOSTON -- The similarities between the Red Sox and Cardinals are unmistakable, from their successes to their approaches to their reputations.
Mike Matheny sees it, too.
"You hear some of the things that they say," the Cardinals' manager said of his next opponent, "and it's a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse. 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."
On Wednesday night at Fenway Park -- air time on FOX is 7:30 p.m. ET, with first pitch at 8:07 -- they'll try to separate themselves in Game 1, with Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright fittingly kicking off the fourth World Series meeting between two of baseball's most storied franchises.
Lester is the Red Sox's ace, one of four holdovers from their last World Series team of six years ago -- along with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury -- and a guy who has given up just five runs through 19 1/3 innings this postseason.
The last time he took the ball in a World Series game -- as a 23-year-old winding down his second season -- Lester locked down the Rockies to complete a four-game sweep in 2007.
"Obviously tomorrow there will still be nerves, there will still be all that to be expected," Lester said. "But I think I know who I am a little bit more as a pitcher and what to expect from myself, and what to expect from the crowd and all the different things that go along with getting a start in the World Series."
Wainwright bookended the National League Division Series with wins over the Pirates, most recently took the ball in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers -- putting him on eight days' rest for Game 1 -- and has a 1.57 ERA in three postseason starts.
On a pitching staff full of rookies, the 32-year-old Wainwright is the one who makes these Cardinals go. He is, as Matheny said, "the guy that sets the tone for our club, especially our pitching staff. It's fitting that he'll be out there."
And it's fitting that these two teams are here, after each finished the regular season with a Major League-best 97-65 record, ranked first and second in run differential and dispatched of their most recent opponents in six games. Dating back to 2004, they're the only teams with three World Series appearances apiece.
On Wednesday night, they'll meet in the Fall Classic for the first time since Boston swept in 2004.
Teams that win Game 1 have won 20 of the past 24 World Series.
"We're up for the challenge," Ellsbury said. "They're going to be very tough. They've showed a lot of poise, they compete, but we're definitely excited for the opportunity."
"They've got some good players, they've got some veteran guys that know how to play the game the right way and we respect them," Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina added. "But at the same time, we've got some good guys over here that play the game the right way, too. We know how to win. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a good Series."
The Red Sox -- looking for their eighth title overall, and third in the past 10 years -- sport bearded, battle-tested veterans like Ortiz, Pedroia, Napoli and Shane Victorino, deploy one of baseball's best closers in Koji Uehara, boast a more veteran staff with Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy, have the No. 1 basestealer in Ellsbury and scored more runs than anyone in baseball this past season.
The Cardinals -- four wins away from their 12th title and third in the past eight years -- have the best catcher in the game, will get Allen Craig back, deploy probably the most dangerous October force in Carlos Beltran, posted the second-best rotation ERA in 2013, batted .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season and come at you with a pitching staff rich in young, live arms, from starter Michael Wacha to closer Trevor Rosenthal.
The Birds and the Beards -- about as good a World Series matchup as you could've hoped for.
But as idle Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter said: "When you get to this spot in the season, it's not about matchups -- it's about going out and executing and playing baseball and doing the things that you need to do to win, and hopefully getting a break here and there to take advantage of. We're both really, really good teams, and we're going to go out and play the best we can and see what happens."
Cardinals: Craig will have to be a quick study
They say you can't simulate Major League intensity -- so what about World Series intensity?
Craig, officially added to the World Series roster on Tuesday, is expected to start at designated hitter in Game 1. And when he digs into the box at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, the first in-game pitch he sees in seven weeks will come on baseball's highest stage and from the left arm of one of baseball's best pitchers.
"The most important thing for me is just to focus on competing," Craig said. "I'm really focusing on that more than how I feel."
Craig batted .315/.373/.457 before suffering a left foot injury on Sept. 4. He missed most of the last month of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. But he's been working to get back for the Fall Classic, and on Sunday and Monday, he did well against live pitching.
Still, Wednesday will be different.
"He is such a prolific hitter, it's definitely worth the chance," Cards general manager John Mozeliak said. "We're trying to get him as much live pitching as we can, but to simulate Game 1 of a World Series is virtually impossible. We'll do the best we can."
Red Sox: Soon enough, Ortiz will man first base
Farrell confirmed that Ortiz will play first base when the series shifts to the NL rules of Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
"How many days he'll play in those three game there remains to be seen," said Farrell.
It'll depend on the matchups, but the entire Cardinals rotation is right-handed and Ortiz mashed righties in typical fashion this season, with a .339/.440/.652 slash line in 384 plate appearances. So it's fair to say that in Games 3, 4 and 5 -- Saturday, Sunday and next Monday, if necessary -- the Red Sox will be sacrificing defense for offense at that position by sitting Napoli for Ortiz, who has started only 25 games at the position since the Red Sox's last trip to the World Series in '07.
But it isn't too much of a sacrifice, left fielder Jonny Gomes urges.
"I've seen Big Papi play a lot, and the guy can play first, a 100 percent," Gomes said. "This isn't a huge defensive downgrade. If you ask me, we can go hashtag Gold Glove on Napoli, because I think he deserves it a 100 percent. But David Ortiz isn't going to kill us by any means."
• This is only the third time since the Wild Card era began in 1995 that the two best teams in each league, record-wise, met in the World Series. It also happened in 1995 (Braves-Indians) and '99 (Braves-Yankees).
• Both managers announced their starting pitchers for Thursday's Game 2, with 11-year veteran John Lackey starting for the Red Sox and rookie Michael Wacha taking the ball for the Cardinals.
• To create a spot for Craig, the Cardinals left outfielder Adron Chambers off their World Series roster. The Red Sox kept the same 25-man roster from the ALCS.
• The Cardinals and Red Sox haven't faced each other outside of Spring Training since the 2008 regular season. The Cardinals have won six of nine all-time regular-season meetings, but the Red Sox have won 10 of 18 in the World Series. St. Louis won the 1946 and '67 World Series vs. Boston, then the Red Sox swept in 2004 to end an 86-year drought.
• This is the 109th edition of the World Series. The AL has won 62 of them, but the NL has won three straight and five of the last seven with wins by the Cardinals in '06, the Phillies in '08, the Giants in '10, the Cardinals in '11 and the Giants again in '12.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.