I love the World Series. OK, maybe not as much as I would if a certain team that wears birds on the bat were playing. But I still look forward to the Detroit-San Francisco match-up. And here are some of the story lines that hold my interest.
Marco Scutaro – Will the Giants’ second baseman carry on as he did against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, when he batted .500
and put everything into play? Scutaro could drive Detroit manager Jim Leyland to smoke an extra pack of cigarettes in the Tigers’ dugout tunnel. He’s nearly impossible to strike out, which makes his match-up against Detroit flame thrower Justin Verlander all that more interesting. Verlander strikes suckers out. Scutaro takes patient at-bats.
The crowds – San Francisco fans are straight-out bonkers, probably the loudest in baseball. But Tigers fans aren’t far behind. These are two fan bases that love and cherish their teams. There will be great atmosphere in both ballparks, provided the games cooperate by being competitive.
Detroit’s bullpen – The Tigers have a better offense than San Francisco, and better starting pitching. But the difference in bullpens could end up being a big edge for the Giants. Detroit doesn’t have a closer; Jose Valverde gave up that role in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. New York couldn’t hit anyone all postseason long – except Valverde. Phil Coke, a left-hander, now looks like Detroit’s best bet for the ninth inning, but Detroit’s bullpen is a serious question mark.
Cabrera and Fielder – Tough middle-of-the-order hitters for Giants pitchers to face. These are the kind of sluggers who can ultimately wear down a pitching staff, especially if the Tigers are putting runners on base for Cabrera and Fielder. The Giants do have four left-handers in their bullpen, which could help neutralize Fielder in the middle to late innings. But when you’re facing a Triple Crown winner and one of the best left-handed hitters of the past decade, your pitching staff is going to be taxed.
Barry Zito – I’m not bullish on Zito, despite the fact that he made the Cardinals look like Little League hitters last Friday night in a Giants win that ultimately turned that series around. Zito runs it up there at about 84 mph and apparently caused the Cardinals to forget how to hit, judging from their performances in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS. I think the Tigers will rock Zito in tonight’s Game 1 of the World Series. Then Detroit could go up 2-0 when facing another lefty, Madison Bumgarner, in Game 2 on Thursday night. Bumgarner hit a wall late in the season and was shelled by the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS. The pitching match-ups set up extremely well for Detroit in this series, another reason I think the Tigers win.
Andy Dirks vs. Conor Gillaspie – Well, not quite. Dirks is a key member of the Tigers who likely will be starting in the outfield for all of the games in the World Series. The Haven native and former Wichita State standout looks like he’ll have a nice big league career as a .280 hitter with a little pop and a lot of smarts. Gillaspie, though, hasn’t been on the Giants’ roster for the postseason. A teammate of Dirks’ at Wichita State in 2007-08, Gillaspie was only 3 for 20 in six games with the Giants in 2012. The 25-year-old spent most of the season at Triple-A Fresno, where he batted .281 with 14 homers and 49 RBI.
Unsung players – I’m not sure Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson qualifies as unsung, but I sure do like this guy. The Yankees traded him a few years back for Curtis Granderson. I think the Tigers, despite Granderson’s surge in power, hit the jackpot. I also like Detroit second baseman Omar Infante, who came over in a mid-season deal with the Miami Marlins. Infante knows how to play and teams with another veteran, Jhonny Peralta, to give the Tigers an underrated up-the-milddle combination. The Giants, meanwhile, have a few guys who can really play but most people don’t know about, starting with Scutaro. He’s incredible. Leadoff hitter and center fielder Angel Pagan is really good (I kinda wish the Cardinals had him), and starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong is red hot.
Prediction – I think the Tigers are the better team. And any home-field advantage the Giants might have has been nullified by the way the pitching match-ups set up for Games 1 and 2. Verlander vs. Zito is a big edge for Detroit. And in Game 2, I like Tigers’ right-hander Doug Fister to beat Bumgarner. If the Giants go down 2-0 – and I know how they came back from 2-0 down to win three straight at Cincinnati and how they came back from 3-1 down to knock off St. Louis – this World Series is finished. I’m taking Detroit in six games. But it could be five.
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