ST. LOUIS -- In splitting the first two games of the World Series in Boston, the Cardinals effectively snatched home-field advantage away from the Red Sox. And now that they are back in St. Louis, the Cards believe there is a legitimate boost to playing the next three games at Busch Stadium.
That advantage isn't so much in the dimensions or how the team is built, as Busch Stadium is considered to play fair for both pitchers and hitters. Rather, players point to the fans and the comfort as the two biggest factors behind their notable success at home this season.
"To play in front of your fans," catcher Yadier Molina said, "that's the key, I think."
Only the Braves won more regular-season home games than the Cardinals, whose total of 54 set a stadium record. The club finished the regular season with seven consecutive home wins and is 5-1 at Busch Stadium so far this postseason. Go back even further and the Cards have won 26 of their last 32 games played here.
In 2006, the Cardinals won all three home World Series games. On their way to the 2011 title, the Cards went 3-1 at Busch Stadium.
"You're supposed to play well at home," Adam Wainwright said. "We have an advantage here, I think, with our crowd. They support us and back us better than anyone does. We just like coming home. We are comfortable here. We get to go home and sleep in our own beds. It just adds a lot to it."
Adding to the potential advantage of the Series shifting to St. Louis is the absence of the designated hitter, which will keep Mike Napoli out of the lineup and on the bench. Boston's pitchers went 1-for-26 during the regular season in their limited plate appearances during Interleague Play.
Boston is 4-5 all-time in postseason games played beneath the Arch.
"It's going to be an exciting atmosphere," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's going to be loud, and the guys thrive on that. We try to say we're going to go out and play the game the same way, no matter if there's nobody in the stands or it's packed with 50,000. And I do believe that's true. But you can't help but buy into the atmosphere, especially when you're at home and every single thing you do gets such a positive response."
Kelly on his toes against Boston baserunners
ST. LOUIS -- One of the most intriguing matchups coming into this World Series was Yadier Molina vs. the Red Sox's baserunners. How aggressive would Boston be trying to swipe bases off baseball's best catcher?
Through two games it has been advantage Molina, as the Red Sox have not yet tested his arm. Molina's reputation and game situations have played a role in Boston's hesitancy to gamble. Credit, though, should also go to starters Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, whose quickness to the plate and variance in delivery time closed the door on potential basestealing opportunities.
"It comes down to our guys and how they're holding runners," manager Mike Matheny said. "Not that I am, as a [former] catcher, forcing it down their throat, but I just hate giving them extra bases. There are people that are going to fight that and sabermetricians will say it's a low-percentage move and this and that, but I've seen it hurt us too many times. … If you can quicken it up, why wouldn't you?"
It is a topic addressed on Day 1 of Spring Training, Matheny said, and something that has been re-emphasized to Joe Kelly in advance of his Game 3 start. Kelly can be caught unaware of baserunners and can be slow to the plate during his delivery. If he is on Saturday, the Red Sox will be ready to pounce.
Kelly admitted as much before his start when he was asked about Molina's impact.
"To have a guy like that, he shuts down the running game," Kelly said. "Sometimes if I want to be a little slow around the plate, and also he notices if I'm being slow, he'll tell me, 'Hey, man, give me a chance. These guys might steal on you. You're a little slow to the plate. Try to speed it up.'"
Matheny said he has seen Kelly improve in this area, but Saturday could be as tough a test as he has had this season. The Red Sox ranked third in the American League with 123 stolen bases and tops with a success percentage of 89. Molina threw out 44 percent of attempted basestealers during the regular season.
"Joe has to be a little more conscious," Matheny said. "It's something they'll try to take advantage of. He's got to be sharp. And if he does get lazy and does get complacent that Yadi will take care of everything, it doesn't matter how good Yadi is, he's not going to be able to do it."
Craig building up defensive work in event of start
ST. LOUIS -- About two hours before the Cardinals took the field for batting practice on Saturday, Allen Craig stood near first base, fielding a succession of ground balls hit by third-base coach Jose Oquendo. It was an increased amount of defensive work for Craig, who is trying to quickly prepare himself for the possibility of playing the field during the World Series.
Craig did not start in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday, as the Cards stuck with Matt Adams at first base against right-hander Jake Peavy. Before the game, however, manager Mike Matheny said that Craig has done enough defensive work that he would be comfortable leaving Craig in the game to play the field after using him as a pinch-hitter.
Both first base and the outfield would be viable options, Matheny added, even though Craig has not yet resumed outfield work since recovering from a left foot injury.
Craig plans to continue the defensive work on Sunday and Monday. If the Cardinals are going to be aggressive in getting him into the lineup, it likely would be in Game 5, when the Red Sox next send a left-handed starter to the mound.
"That's a thought," Matheny said. "But we're not going to put him in a situation we're not prepared for. I think we all get it that you have to push and do whatever you can this time of year, but if he hasn't been doing the work … [and] is just out there to grind through it, is that really doing us a benefit?
"We have his bat off the bench. We have the ability to bring him in if we need to. But we'll just see how the next couple of days go."
• Asked about Carlos Beltran's health status prior to Game 3, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "Everything is good." Beltran was able to use Friday's off-day for extra rest and treatment, two days after he suffered a right rib contusion running into the outfield wall. The Cards are not concerned about him missing additional time this postseason.
• Matheny turned back to Pete Kozma to start at short in Game 3 after starting Daniel Descalso at the position on Thursday. Kozma has started in all of Joe Kelly's starts this postseason, a set up that is not a coincidence. Kelly's propensity to induce ground balls has prompted the Cardinals to prioritize defense behind the right-hander.
• As they have for every Saturday home game this season, the Cardinals wore their alternate uniforms -- which feature "St. Louis" in place of "Cardinals" across the front -- for Game 3. It marked the first time since 1931 that the Cards have worn a jersey with "St. Louis" script in the World Series.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.