The San Francisco Giants are the comeback kids of the 2012 post-season.
In their unlikely run to the World Series, the Giants have won six elimination games, most recently knocking out the reigning defending champion St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night.
We'll find out starting on Wednesday (5 p.m. PT) when the Fall Classic begins at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
After clawing back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Cardinals, the never-say-die Giants will still be on a high from their NLCS triumph when the first pitch is thrown.
The Tigers, on the other hand, completed their American League Championship Series sweep of the New York Yankees on Oct. 18 and by the time the Series begins, they will have had almost six days on the sidelines. To stay sharp, manager Jim Leyland has had his club scrimmaging against minor leaguers.
The Tigers and Giants have never faced off in the World Series, but they have competed against each other in four interleague series since 1997. Most recently, the Giants took two of three from the hometown Tigers at Comerica Park in July 2011.
Because the NL prevailed in the all-star game, the Giants, who have 11 players remaining on their roster from their 2010 World Series-winning club, will have home field advantage.
That 2010 championship is the only one the Giants have secured in San Francisco, while the Tigers have captured four Fall Classic titles, their last one coming 28 years ago.
Here's an extensive breakdown of the Tigers (88-74 during the regular season) and the Giants (94-68) and how they stack up against each other:
With the luxury of six days off before the World Series, the Tigers were able to align their rotation so that Verlander, who's 3-0 with a 0.74 earned-run average this post-season, can potentially start Games 1, 4 and 7. The rest of the rotation - which includes right-handers Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer - has also been superb. Just how good have they been? Well, none of them fashion a post-season ERA higher than 1.35.
Three potential members of the Giants' World Series rotation - Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner - also pitched for their 2010 championship squad. But Cain, who aside from his Game 7 NLCS victory has been less than ace-like this October, won't be available until Game 3.
Bumgarner has been lit up for 10 runs in eight innings in his two playoff starts, while Lincecum, who thanks to a 5.18 ERA during the regular season was relegated to bullpen duty in the NLDS, was hit hard in his NLCS start. Possible Game 2 starter Ryan Vogelsong (2-0, 1.42 ERA in the playoffs) has been their best starter, while veteran southpaw Barry Zito, who hurled 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Cardinals, is the favourite to start the opener.
Tigers closer Jose Valverde has been rocked for seven runs in just 2 1/3 innings this October. Generally employed as a left-handed specialist, Phil Coke has stepped up during Valverde's struggles and finished the Tigers' final three ALCS contests. Right-handers Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque have also been reliable, but set-up man Joaquin Benoit (4.91 ERA in four post-season games) hasn't performed well.
The Giants have employed a patchwork bullpen ever since closer Brian Wilson was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in April. Left-handers Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez have yet to yield a run in 13 playoff appearances combined, while Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and George Kontos are a key reason the Giants have advanced this far.
Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder provide the Tigers with the best one-two, middle-of-the-order punch in baseball. During the regular season, the Tigers relied almost exclusively on these two sluggers and leadoff man Austin Jackson for their offence. Fortunately, the bats of Jhonny Peralta (.343, two homers in the playoffs) and Delmon Young (.353 in the ALCS) have come alive this October.
While the Giants tallied 20 runs in the final three games of the NLCS, this team isn't likely to beat the Tigers unless Buster Posey (.178 in these playoffs) starts hitting. But Posey isn't the only Giant struggling at the plate this October. Angel Pagan (.208) and Hunter Pence (.188) have contributed little to an offence that has been led by Pablo Sandoval (.320, three homers) and former Toronto Blue Jay Marco Scutaro (14 hits, .500 in NLCS).
With their infield boasting three plodding infielders in Cabrera, Peralta and Fielder, the Tigers now plan to start the defensively inept Young in left field in Game 1. Fortunately, Jackson is a Gold Glove-worthy centre-fielder that will help compensate for Young's lack of range. Alex Avila is also an elite defensive catcher.
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford has been a revelation at shortstop this post-season and Pagan has been similarly stellar in centre. Posey is also a capable catcher and Belt is sure-handed at first base. The Giants are far from perfect defensively, but they're better in the field than the Tigers.
The resilient Giants have experience and some magical playoff mojo working for them, but unless Posey snaps out of his slump and Cain and Bumgarner pitch like they did during the regular season, their chances of beating the Tigers are slim. Tigers in 6.
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