When you look back to just August, how did the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers end up in the World Series?
The Giants were in a ferocious battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were spending money like crazy to acquire all of the top players from the Miami Marlins and the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers struggled all season and the Chicago White Sox were in the driver’s seat. Thanks to a surprising collapse, the White Sox choked and the Tigers rode a hot streak straight to the World Series.
Yet even in the playoffs both teams survived elimination games, and have an opportunity for a classic storybook ending.
San Francisco blew both games at home against the Cincinnati Reds and had to win three games in Cincinnati to advance in the divisional round. Somehow, they did it. Then they were down three games to one against the St. Louis Cardinals, and they won another set of three consecutive games.
Detroit nearly blew a two game lead over the Oakland Athletics before winning the decisive Game 5. Then they demolished the New York Yankees to avoid more dramatics.
With both teams out of their nine lives this season, who has the edge in the World Series?
Lineups: Detroit has the explosiveness to score runs at any point thanks to future AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera and slugger Prince Fielder. They also have speed with Austin Jackson and clutch hitting with ALCS MVP Delmon Young.
The Giants have Marco Scutaro, who has been nearly flawless this postseason. Don’t forget future NL Most Valuable Player Buster Posey and possibly the new Mr. October with three home runs in Game 1, Pablo Sandoval.
Starting pitchers: Although he was rocked in Game 1, you can’t discount Justin Verlander when he gets another opportunity to pitch. However, the rest of the Tigers rotation has been lights out too. They had the second-best ERA in the AL in the regular season at 3.34, but they’ve went up a level with a 1.01 ERA in nine games before the World Series began.
With the Giants, you don’t know what you’ll get. How was Barry Zito, who has been a colossal disappointment, so good in Game 1? Will Ryan Vogelsong continue to carry this rotation? Is Matt Cain going to return to how good he was in the regular season?
Bullpen: Welcome to Detroit’s Achilles heel. They don’t even have a closer they can rely on at the moment. Jose Valverde has been awful in the postseason. It’s hard to close out games when you have inexperienced guys doing it on the biggest stage.
San Francisco’s bullpen has stepped up all season. Tim Lincecum has revived his season there, Sergio Romo has been lights out as a closer, and Jeremy Affeldt has been a good setup man.
Managers: Both Detroit’s Jim Leyland, and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy have been through this rodeo. Both have won World Series in the past and have been named Manager of the Year before. Although it’s close, I give the edge to Bochy for navigating his team through tough elimination games in the postseason.
My prediction: Detroit in 5. Prince Fielder as MVP.
Bobby Nightengale is a senior sports communication major from Bloomington, Minn. He is the Scout assistant sports editor.
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