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World Series: A look at Tigers' World Series rotation

SAN FRANCISCO -- The collective state of awe in this city, and perhaps the smell of champagne in the home clubhouse, still hadn't subsided by the time World Series workouts began at AT&T Park on Tuesday afternoon. Not even 20 hours had passed since the Giants' greatest triumph in a season chock-full of them, an enchanting, rain-soaked rout of the Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series to cap yet another epic comeback.

But the time for reveling was already over.

"You have to savor special moments like last night, you have to enjoy them, which we did, but it's time to move on now, and the journey is not over," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said at the podium, his team four wins shy of its second title in three years. "We have a big series here ahead of us."

That series comes against a star-laden Tigers team that's six days removed from a convincing sweep of the Yankees and hungry for its first championship since 1984. It starts on Wednesday, at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, with the 100-mph fastball of righty Justin Verlander meeting the 85-mph trickery of lefty Barry Zito.

The Giants -- with their scrappy offense and deep pitching staff -- seem to have all the momentum, having won three straight games against the Cardinals to move to 6-0 in elimination games this postseason. The Tigers of Verlander, Prince Fielder and Triple Crown-winner Miguel Cabrera are rested -- too rested? -- and have their rotation lined up in hopes of avenging their ugly World Series loss of six years ago.

This is the first time in history that the World Series will pin the Giants and Tigers -- two teams that have faced each other just six times over the last five years.

"I don't think anybody ever understands the magnitude of being one of the final two," said sage skipper Jim Leyland, whose Tigers made a late-season push to claim their second straight American League Central crown, then defeated the A's in five and the Yanks in four. "When you go into Spring Training, there's 30 teams, and if somebody were to tell you at the beginning of Spring Training you'd be one of the final two standing, it's hard to do. It's very, very difficult to get here, there's no question about that. You know, we're excited about it."

Leyland will pitch Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, respectively, in this series. It's the same foursome that posted a 0.66 ERA in the AL Championship Series, when the Tigers became the fourth team in history to sweep a best-of-seven series without ever trailing.

ALCS MVP Delmon Young will play left field in NL parks -- at least in Game 1 -- and the closing situation will continue to be on a matchup basis, with Jose Valverde still recovering from recent struggles.

Bochy will follow Zito with struggling lefty Madison Bumgarner and his two standout righties, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, relegating Tim Lincecum to bullpen duty once more.

It was Verlander who gave the Giants the home-field advantage they now possess by giving up five runs in the first inning of the All-Star Game. Melky Cabrera scored the first run, Pablo Sandoval drove in the next three with a bases-loaded triple and Cain, who hurled 5 2/3 scoreless innings on Monday, was the winning pitcher.

That the Giants were even able to take advantage of it -- going 30-14 after Cabrera's suspension, then winning six straight elimination games -- is a testament to their remarkable perseverance.

"Yeah, I tried to throw the ball hard. I wasn't not trying to get people out. There's a difference," Verlander said of his approach at the Midsummer Classic. "You know, when I'm throwing 100 in the ninth, I'm trying to get people out, too, it just so happens I wanted to do it in the first and it didn't work out well. It wasn't for lack of effort."

And this is not the Verlander the Giants will see on Wednesday.

More likely, they'll see the reigning MVP who has a chance at his second straight Cy Young Award; the one who has a 0.74 ERA and 25 strikeouts in three starts in this postseason; the one who has won each of his last seven starts overall.

The one who has many believing that the Tigers are locks to win every time he toes the rubber.

"This is the game of baseball, anything can happen," Verlander said, "and I don't think myself nor the Tigers take anything for granted, no matter who's on the mound."

You can bet Zito doesn't take anything for granted, either.

When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, Zito was left off the roster. And throughout his six-year run in San Francisco, with his velocity dropping and his "ace" label fading, he's been defined more by his big paycheck than his triumphs.

Then came Game 5 of the NLCS, when he scattered just six hits over 7 2/3 shutout frames in a win over the Cardinals that many Giants players pointed to as the spark that drove them here. Now here he is, starting Game 1 of the World Series and quickly making his recent shortcomings a distant memory.

But nobody is reflecting anymore. There's no time.

"It's not important to reflect right now," Zito said. "There's work to do. I'm going to be on the mound here in the next 24 hours, so that's where my focus is at."

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