Monday, October 29, 2012

Giants Sweep Tigers

The Giants waited 52 years to bring their first World Series title to San Francisco after abandoning their home in the Polo Grounds prior to the 1958 season.

The city didn't have to wait too long for their second.

In the ALCS it was the Detroit Tigers who knocked off the New York Yankees in four games. The script flipped in the Fall Classic, when the Giants took four straight from the Tigers and captured their second World Series title in three years. After coming within one loss of elimination in the NLCS, the Giants returned from the brink and didn't lose again.

On paper, the matchup between the looked intriguing and seemingly had the potential to produce an exciting six or seven game series. It never materialized. Game 1 was a good old-fashioned spanking in which the Giants battered Justin Verlander and Series MVP Pablo Sandoval tied a Series record by cranking out three homers. The next two games were tightly contested pitching duels that the Giants won, 2-0. The fourth and decisive game was a hard-fought extra-inning thriller in which the Tigers made their last stand, but ultimately fell short.

Neither Matt Cain nor Max Scherzer brought his best stuff last night, but both lasted deep into the game before turning it over to the bullpens. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before San Francisco and its superior relief corps prevailed.

The Giants drew first blood in the top of the second when Hunter Pence knocked a ground-rule double over the fence and Brandon Belt drove him home with an RBI triple.The following inning, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera gave the Tigers their first and only lead of the series by poking a two-run homer into the first row of the right field bleachers, thus snapping San Fran's string of 56 consecutive innings without falling behind.

The Tigers lead lasted until the top of the sixth, when likely NL MVP Buster Posey swatted a two-run shot of his own that just managed to stay fair and put San Francisco back on top. The lead was short-lived, though, for ALCS MVP Delmon Young responded wit a solo jack in the bottom of the frame to even the score at three-all.

The game stayed that way into the tenth, when NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro ripped an RBI single up the middle off Phil Coke to plate Ryan Theriot. Sergio Romo entered the game and proceeded to strike out the side by fanning Austin Jackson, pinch-hitter Don Kelly and Cabrera, who took a pitch right down the middle for a called third strike that sealed Detroit's fate.

The Tigers bats suffered from the six day layoff between the ALCS and World Series, and thus went cold at the worst possible time.  Their offense batted a measly .159 with just five extra base hits and six runs scored in the Fall Classic. Prince Fielder went AWOL. Jhonny Peralta was nowhere to be found. But when the chips were down, at least Jim Leyland didn't freak out and pull a Joe Girardi. He didn't frantically reshuffle the lineup in an attempt to stir his slumbering sluggers. He stuck with his guys til the end and went down with his best, whereas Girardi's ship sank with the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson watching from the dugout.

It's too bad, really, because aside from Verlander, Detroit's starting pitching was excellent. Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Scherzer turned in quality starts and pitched well enough for their teams to win. They simply didn't get any run support, and the bullpen didn't do them any favors either.

As far as next year goes, the Tigers front office should focus on adding depth to a top-heavy team. I would let Young walk this offseason (Victor Martinez's return will more than make up for his departure on offense) and pursue a few relievers to bolster their 'pen. Another bat would be nice, too. But even if they decide to sit tight and lick their wounds, they're still the overwhelming favorites to win the AL Central for the third straight year.

As for the Giants? They will look to become the first team to win three World Series titles this millennium. Their outstanding starting pitching always makes them a threat.  Mixed with plus defense, solid hitting and a great bullpen, the Giants have created a recipe for success that makes them perennial contenders. They should let Scutaro leave given his age (37), but will probably re-sign him along with Angel Pagan. A full season from Pence will help, but they also need to find a way to replace Melky Cabrera, who was their first half MVP.

I wouldn't bet on them repeating as champions in 2013. But then again, I wouldn't have bet on them winning it all as recently as two weeks ago.

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