World Series preview: Tigers vs. Giants

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Photo - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Tigers ace Justin Verlander has made three starts in this postseason and allowed just two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Tigers ace Justin Verlander has made three starts in this postseason and allowed just two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings.
Sports,MLB,Brian McNally

Storylines

1. The king of aces » The presence of Tigers ace Justin Verlander looms over this World Series. He has made three starts in the postseason and allowed just two earned runs and struck out 25 batters in 24 1/3 innings. He has thrown 121 pitches or more in each postseason start. About the only advantage the Giants have is Verlander will be pitching on seven days' rest -- something that can knock even the best pitcher off his routine. But even then Verlander has a 3.38 ERA in 18 career starts with more than six days' rest. He will likely pitch Game 1 and Game 5 and maybe even be available in relief for a potential Game 7.

2. Giant killers » About all San Francisco really knows is it will have ace Matt Cain at least twice and Barry Zito will start Game 1. There are decisions to be made otherwise. Ryan Vogelsong could also start Game 3. He pitched on Sunday in the NLCS against St. Louis. But the three other pitchers are in the mix. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' second-best pitcher in 2012, has tired badly in the postseason. But he is an option. Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner, has been better in relief this postseason. And Zito, so often ripped for his huge contract and limited production, wants to build off a brilliant Game 5 in the NLCS.

3. Home sweet home » Detroit has done well without home-field advantage throughout the postseason so possibly playing four games in San Francisco is nothing new. But there is an added challenge: In the National League park, the designated hitter disappears. That adds an automatic out to a lineup that is a bit top-heavy with Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder surrounded by lesser hitters. Designated hitter Delmon Young has four game-winning RBIs this postseason, but might have to patrol AT&T Park's spacious outfield. How much will that compromise Detroit defensively? Otherwise, manager Jim Leyland appears to have the bench depth to handle National League rules.

World Series History

San Francisco Giants

The Giants have a long, proud heritage dating to their founding in 1883. They won seven titles when they played in New York and made it to the World Series nine other times. Since moving to San Francisco in 1958, this is their fifth appearance. They won the title in 2010 over Texas but lost in 2002, 1989 and 1962.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are another franchise with a distinguished history as an inaugural member of the American League. They are making their 11th World Series appearance. They lost most recently to St. Louis in 2006 in five games and won it all in 1984. Overall, Detroit is 4-6 in the World Series. Its other titles came in 1935, 1945 and 1968.

Tale of the Tape

Starters

The Tigers have Justin Verlander at the height of his powers and that alone gives them the edge. Matt Cain has had a fine postseason for the Giants. But Madison Bumgarner has struggled over the final month, and Tim Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, has had a roller-coaster season.

Advantage » Detroit

Bullpen

It's not really a strength of either team. Detroit, though, is in trouble if its starters falter. Closer Jose Valverde has had a nightmare postseason, and relying on lefty Phil Coke in key spots is dangerous. The Giants had a 3.56 bullpen ERA in 2012 and ranked 15th overall. The Tigers' bullpen ERA was 3.79, 18th overall.

Advantage » San Francisco

Lineup

It might not have the depth of past championship lineups, but Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, slugger Prince Fielder and the dynamic Austin Jackson make Detroit a difficult matchup for any pitching staff. Buster Posey, an NL MVP candidate, anchors the Giants' batting order. They need No.?3 hitter Pablo Sandoval to stay hot.

Advantage » Detroit

Bench

The Tigers are actually well positioned to play National League baseball with a bench that includes speed (Quintin Berry) and a decent right-handed bat at backup catcher (Gerald Laird), among other options. The Giants have experienced pinch hitters in Xavier Nady and Aubrey Huff and a better utility infielder (Ryan Theriot).

Advantage » San Francisco

Prediction

Detroit is the consensus favorite in large part because ace Justin Verlander has been so good. And if he continues that way in two starts and potentially another appearance in Game 7 in relief -- or another start on short rest -- then the Giants' margin for error is almost zero. But what if San Francisco can get to Verlander even once? It has less firepower but a deeper lineup. It is superior defensively. And if starters Madison Bumgarner or Tim Lincecum find their form for even one start in this series then the Giants' rotation is capable of shutting down the middle of Detroit's order.

Giants in seven

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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