No shortage of Game 1 storylines for Tigers, Giants
With one day of rest since finishing off the National League Championship Series, San Francisco opens the World Series on Wednesday night, hosting a Detroit team that wrapped up the American League Championship Series on Thursday, giving the Tigers five full days between games. Will the rest make a difference? That is a storyline that will unfold during the course of the Series.Game 1 has storylines of its own. Five to keep an eye on: Left in
Delmon Young finds himself in left field for the Tigers in the opener. It's not by desire. The first two games will be played at AT&T Park, which means NL rules will be used, which means no designated hitter, which means Young either plays left field or doesn't play. Young was the ALCS MVP. He was 6-for-17 with two home runs and six RBIs in four games.
And while the focus regarding Detroit's offense is on the 3-4 combo Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Young does hit fifth and he ranked third on the team during the regular season in home runs (18) and RBIs (74). What's more, he hit .308 this year against left-handed pitchers, which is what the Giants will present in Games 1 and 2. That ranked second on the team to Cabrera, who hit .314 against lefties during the regular season. The Tigers were 26-25 in games against left-handed starters, which was the 13th-best such record in Majors.Playing in the field, however, is a challenge for Young, who made only 31 defensive appearances (29 starts) during the regular season. New look
San Francisco is in the World Series for the second time in three years. The Giants beat Texas in 2010. But don't spend much time studying scouting reports from 2010 to get an idea of how to pitch the Giants. Only two of the projected members of the Giants lineup for this World Series were with the team in 2010 -- catcher Buster Posey and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. And Sandoval, who struggled through that season, his second in the big leagues, was in only one game and had only three at-bats against Texas. First baseman Brandon Belt had just completed his first pro season, hitting .352 with 23 home runs and 112 RBIs in stops at High-A San Jose, Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was in his second year in pro ball and between San Jose and Richmond he hit .236 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. Second baseman Marco Scutaro was with Boston; left fielder Gregor Blanco split the year between Atlanta and Kansas City, spending a third of the season in the Minors; center fielder Angel Pagan was with the Mets, and Hunter Pence was with Houston. Scutaro is the only one of those six with previous postseason experience. He appeared in the 2006 postseason with Oakland, which was eliminated in the ALCS by Detroit. Hot enough?
Ten years removed from winning the AL Cy Young Award, Barry Zito gets the Game 1 start for the Giants. No pitcher has ever started Game 1 of a World Series a decade after winning a Cy Young. But more than that, Zito gets to continue a year of resurrection, which came after a five-year fizzle with the Giants that was so challenging the veteran left-hander wasn't even on the Giants' roster during any of the three postseason series they played in 2010. Zito has been the Giants' good-luck charm of late. The Giants have won each of his past 13 starts. He is 8-6 with a 2.91 ERA in his career against the Tigers, but has faced them only three times and thrown only 15 innings against Detroit in the last seven seasons. What's difficult to explain is why Zito has a career 4.15 ERA at AT&T Park, including 4.00 this year, despite its pitching-friendly reputation. Finish what you start
Justin Verlander is the most dominant pitcher in the game today, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland's life would be a lot easier if Verlander can go all the way in Game 1. The Tigers' closer situation has become an uncertainty. Jose Valverde blew leads in his last two postseason appearances, and by the end of the ALCS it was Phil Coke closing out games. Coke worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings but he is left-handed, and the key batters in the Giants lineup are either right-handed or switch-hitters. Verlander has shown no sign of slowing down after a dominating regular season. He is 3-0 and has allowed two earned runs on 10 hits and five walks while striking out 25 in going 3-0 this postseason. That gives him wins in seven consecutive starts, going back to the regular season. He finished the regular season by allowing two earned runs in 28 innings. The Giants aren't a real power threat. They were last in the Majors in home runs with 103, the first team to hold that distinction and advance to a World Series since the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals, who hit 94 homers. Verlander gave up 19 home runs this year -- 14 of them, however, came with nobody on base. There was one man on base in the other five. Left-on-left
Leyland can try to split up his three expected left-handed-hitting regulars -- first baseman Prince Fielder, outfielder Andy Dirks and catcher Alex Avila -- but he won't be able to hide them from late-inning left-handed matchups. San Francisco, after all, has three left-handed relievers thanks to the August waiver claim of Jose Mijares from Kansas City. And their lefties can dominate left-handed hitters. During the regular season, left-handed hitters had a .191 average against Javier Lopez, .211 against Mijares, and .236 against Jeremy Affeldt.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.