How they match up: Game 1 starters: Tigers’ Justin Verlander – 3-0 record in postseason; 0.74 ERA; 25:5 strikeouts to walks; Giants’ Barry Zito – 1-0 record; 1.74 ERA; 10:5 strikeouts to walks.
Three reasons the Giants will win
1. Tigers are stale. Sure, rest is a good thing, but the Tigers learned in 2006 that a quick knockout in the championship series can prove counter-productive. And if the Giants beat Verlander in the opener (or survive long enough to get into the Tigers’ bullpen), the Series math changes significantly.
2. Catcher Buster Posey. He’s a good bet to be selected as the National League’s Most Valuable Player _ and he’s eight for 45 in 12 postseason games. Progression to the mean seems in order.
3. Spunk. Or whatever you want to call it. The Giants are just the second team in history to win six elimination games in one postseason. (You know the other one; they also crushed the Cardinals in a seventh game.)
Three reasons the Tigers will win
1. They’re rested. That means their rotation – and it’s a heck of a rotation – should be in top form. That might be enough right there.
2. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera. He’s the Triple Crown winner, and it’s just a matter of time before he really breaks loose. He showed signs of warming up against the Yankees.
3. Law of averages. The Giants survived three elimination games against the Reds and three more against the Cardinals. If the Tigers get ahead in the Series – and they have Verlander scheduled for two of the first five games – well, we’ll see.
This is a classic contrast between the Tigers’ bombers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Delmon Young, etc.), and the Giants’ relentless rat-a-tat attack (Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and OK, Buster Posey can go in any group). AT&T Park, which will be host to four games, stifles power, but we’ll still say Advantage: Tigers.
It gets pointed out each round that the Tigers have one of baseball’s worst defenses. They do and, sooner or later, it’s really going to cost them. The Giants’ defense, by traditional and new-wave metrics, generally ranks slightly below average, although their up-the-middle core is solid. Advantage: Giants.
Were both rotations set up, this might be close to a pick-’em. But they aren’t. The Tigers are rested and will open the Series with Justin Verlander, who has been breathtakingly dominant – even for him – in the postseason. The Giants are scrambling after being extended to the limit by the Cardinals but, if the Series goes a full seven, they should have a rested Matt Cain at home. Cain has already won two clinchers. Until game seven though, it’s Advantage: Tigers.
The Tigers are an interesting mix of remarkable strengths and sobering shortcomings – and the bullpen is among the latter. Can Phil Coke, as the stand-in closer for struggling Jose Valverde, do to the Giants what he did to the Yankees? Maybe. But the Giants’ mix of Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Jose Mijares seems a better bet. Advantage: Giants.
The Tigers could pulverize the Giants with their power and/or silence them with their surging rotation. It isn’t just Verlander: Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have also been terrific. So, yes, the Tigers could overwhelm the Giants much as they did the Yankees. But a fingers-crossed bullpen, station-to-station speed and no-mas defense are all potential killers. And the Giants just seemed charmed, don’t they? Giants in seven.
Breaking down the World Series
Schedule (best of seven)
Wednesday: Detroit at San Francisco, 8 p.m. EDT. (Fox)
Thursday: Detroit at San Francisco, 8 p.m. (Fox)
Saturday: San Francisco at Detroit, 8 p.m. (Fox)
Sunday: San Francisco at Detroit, 8 p.m. (Fox)
Monday: San Francisco at Detroit*, 8 p.m. (Fox)
Oct. 31: Detroit at San Francisco*, 8 p.m. (Fox)
Nov. 1: Detroit at San Francisco*, 8 p.m. (Fox)