The 2013 World Series shifts to St. Louis tied at one game a piece following two sloppy games in Boston. Jake Peavy will get the ball for the Red Sox squaring off against another young starter for the Cardinals in 25-year old Joe Kelly. While only two Red Sox hitters have ever stepped to the plate against Kelly, a couple of Cardinals batters are well acquainted with Peavy. Unfortunately for Peavy and the Red Sox, one of those players is Carlos Beltran, who is making a very compelling case for the title of the greatest postseason performer of all time.
Beltran has 25 plate appearances against Peavy in his career, second only to Matt Holliday among Cardinal players. He has been fantastic in those plate appearances, hitting .400/.480/.800 with three doubles, a triple a home run and four walks against just four strikeouts. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that all but three of these plate appearances came prior to 2009, when Peavy was in his Cy Young winning form and routinely striking out more than a batter an inning. More recent history is even less favorable to Peavy. The two last faced off on June 13, 2012 and Beltran went 3-3 with a home run in that game. Beyond their personal history, Beltran has a number of advantages in this match-up. The switch-hitting Cardinal is better from the left side and while the right-handed Peavy didn't have extreme splits this season, he was better against same-handed hitters.
In some ways however, Beltran's success against Peavy is counter-intuitive. Peavy regularly throws sliders, cutters, and change-ups, all pitches that Beltran frequently whiffs on against righties. Peavy locates these pitches predominately low and low-and-inside against lefties and that is the area of the zone where Beltran is most susceptible to whiffing (per Brooks Baseball's zone charts) The Cardinals veteran has also been worse against fly ball pitchers like Peavy than ground ballers or more neutral arms and he has struggled (relatively speaking) against power pitching as well. Peavy should have the arsenal to exploit the few minor holes in Beltran's approach, but to this point, he has not succeeded at all.
Now, it is October and October belongs to Carlos Beltran. After injuring himself while robbing David Ortiz of a gland slam, Beltran missed most of Game 1. He returned to go 2-for-4 with an RBI in Game 2 despite playing with a rib contusion that necessitated a trip to the hospital and a shot of Toradal for the pain. With Beltran back in his usual number-two spot in the line up, Peavy will likely have to face him several times in Game 3 and if can finally get the best of the postseason superstar, it will be a huge advantage for him. He has the stuff to do it, but that won't stop me from watching Beltran's at-bats through my fingers.