Schilling, Ortiz ... and plenty more

Twice in their last four trips to the World Series, the Boston Red Sox have drawn the St. Louis Cardinals as their opponents -- in 1946 and again in 1967.

Both times, the Cardinals had the best record of any National League champion in that decade. No NL champ in the '40s won more games than the 1946 Cards and no NL pennant-winner in the '60s won more than the 1967 Cards.

So, let's make it three in a row. These Cardinals won 105 games, and while this decade is young, no NL champ has won more games in a single season.

Now that the Red Sox have trumped some of their tortured history and dispatched with the Yankees, can they keep going and win their first World Series since 1918? Or will the Cardinals once again stop them one game -- or more -- shy of the ultimate prize?

Here are five questions that could hold the answers.

1. Can Curt Schilling continue his bionic man act?

Schilling was magnificent in Game 6, his displaced ankle tendon sutured together in a bit of surgical derring-do.

Healthy, Schilling rightfully owns a reputation as one of the game's best big-game pitchers, with a lifetime record of 7-2. And no one needs to be reminded that the last time he pitched in a World Series (2001), his team won all three of his starts and he was the co-MVP.

It's an accepted fact that Schilling isn't going to be 100 percent for his first start, which will be in Game 2. Wisely, the Red Sox will spot him in home games only, meaning he won't have to hit or run the bases when the teams play by National League rules in Games 3-5.

But if he's a reasonable facsimile of himself, that may be good enough. A hobbled Schilling limited the Anaheim Angels to a single run over the first six innings in the Division Series, then went seven innings against the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Red Sox can benefit from that kind of performance.

If, however, Schilling's ankle deteriorates to the level of Game 1 of the ALCS, the Red Sox may be in trouble. No other Red Sox starter has ever made an appearance in the World Series and none can lend the club the same amount of confidence and swagger.

2. Will Boston be able to hide David Ortiz at first base? And what becomes of Kevin Millar in the middle three games?
It's no coincidence that Ortiz has become a much better hitter since he got his knees off artificial turf and didn't suffer the wear-and-tear that comes from playing in the field. As the Sox's DH, he only has to concentrate on four-to-five at-bats per game.

When the series switches to the NL park, however, the luxury of the DH disappears and the Sox will be forced to utilize him at first -- or lose his bat. The latter, it should go without saying, isn't an option.

Ortiz has limited range at first, though he's improved at scooping balls. Millar isn't a Gold Glove candidate when he plays there -- in fact he gets lifted for Doug Mientkiewicz late in games.

With Millar without a position, he may share some time in right field with Trot Nixon, though if Millar is an adventure at first, he's a regular thrill ride in the outfield.

The Cards don't have a left-handed starter in their rotation, so a strict platoon is out. It may be that Millar will be limited to pinch-hitting duties in Games 3-5.

3. Is Ortiz going to have to carry the offense by himself?
After Ortiz won Game 5 -- his second straight game-winning hit -- Ortiz wondered how long he could continue without much backing from the rest of the big bats in the Boston batting order.

Incredibly, Manny Ramirez did not collect a single RBI in the seven-game ALCS, though that may have been a function of tablesetters Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn failing to get on base -- until the final two games, that is.

Ortiz is having the kind of October players dream about, and for now, Ramirez has been getting on base enough to preclude the opposition from pitching around the hulking DH. But it may be too much to ask for him to continue to lug the rest of the Sox on his back.

Ramirez is one of the game's best hitters and run producers. It's time for him to remind people of that.

4. Does St. Louis' rotation have what it takes to shut down the Red Sox?

The Cards had five starters reach double figures in victories during the season, but their best pitcher -- Chris Carpenter -- is out. The rest: Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and Woody Williams are solid and dependable, but none seem capable of dominating in the postseason.

The suspicion is that Morris is less than fully healthy, and though he pitched well in Game 7 of the NLCS, Suppan is largely uproven in big games.

Meanwhile, there are questions about Jason Isringhausen, who has struggled in the postseason. The St. Louis bullpen is deep, but faulty closers can be deadly in October.

5. Will Tony La Russa's postseason experience be a factor?
Until three weeks ago, Boston's Terry Francona had never managed a postseason game. Since then, his team swept the Angels in the ALDS and became the first team in history to rebound from an 3-0 deficit to knock off the Yankees in the ALCS. As such, Francona has been above much second-guessing.

La Russa, meanwhile, has been to more World Series (three) than Francona has won postseason series (2). Long recognized as one of the game's best strategists and game tacticians, he might give the Cards a significant edge in close games.

Then again, La Russa's teams have a history of underperforming in the World Series. His 1988 A's team was far better than the Dodgers, but were upset in the Fall Classic. Ditto his 1990 Oakland team which was swept by an inferior Cincinnati Reds squad.

Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.