The San Francisco Giants made it back to the World Series for the second time in three years and they didn’t do it the easy way. Like in their Division Series against Cincinatti, the Giants fell to the brink of elimination before sweeping their way to a series victory over the Cardinals in the NLCS. Monday night’s 9-0 victory in San Francisco was the third straight elimination game that the Giants won and their sixth in these playoffs.
Their opponents are the well-rested Detroit Tigers, and the time off since wrapping up the AL pennant last Thursday may be a tremendous help or a reason to start slow on the Fall Classic. Jim Leyland has his pitching rotation all lined up, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer for the first four games. The Giants just used Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, who were dominant in NLCS games 6 and 7 and their World Series game 1 starter is still TBD.
Yet, time off leading into the Fall Classic has been problematic in recent years. The Tigers in 2006 swept the Oakland A’s in the ALCS and then waited six days to start the World Series against the Cardinals. They lost game 1 behind Verlander before losing the Series 4-games-to-1. Detroit committed eight errors in the five games, many by their pitchers.
And in 2007, the Colorado Rockies were the hottest team in baseball and swept their way past Philadelphia and Arizona in the playoffs, which gave them eight days off as the Red Sox battled tooth and nail with Cleveland in a seven-game ALCS. The Rockies didn’t win another game, getting swept in the World Series by Boston, starting with a 13-1 beatdown in game 1.
This year’s World Series may feature both league MVPs in Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera. It definitely features some solid starting pitching with red-hot starters beyond the ace: Vogelsong for San Francisco, Sanchez and maybe Fister for Detroit.
They’ve both had their struggles with the bullpen, namely in the closer position. Brian Wilson has been injured for nearly the entire season for the Giants and they have gotten by with, first, Santiago Casilla and then Sergio Romo to finish games. Detroit has a healthy Jose Valverde but he has struggled mightily and may have been surpassed by Phil Coke, who was electric in the ALCS.
That brings us to each team’s greatest strength. Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland have managed their lineups and pitching changes brilliantly to get their teams here. Each has the magic touch and move after move has paid off. If the action gets heated, these might be some long games. They’ll use their weapons until there are no more and each has plenty of quality arms in the bullpen.
So it’s a quick turnaround for the Giants with Game 1 Wednesday at 8PM ET in San Francisco. Verlander against somebody. Could it be Lincecum? AT&T will be a madhouse no matter what.