San Francisco Giants finish NLCS comeback, prepare for Detroit Tigers in World Series



San Francisco Giants; Marco Scutaro celebrates the MVP award on the field after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, October 22, 2012. The Giants advance to the World Series. Photo by Gary Reyes.

Jim Piascik

NLCS Recap

The San Francisco Giants won three straight elimination games for the second time this postseason, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Giants have plenty of household names, but outstanding performances from their lesser-known players propelled San Francisco to its second World Series appearance in three years.

NLCS MVP second baseman Marco Scutaro, acquired in a midseason trade, went 14-for-28 in the series and posted a 1.140 OPS to lead the Giants’ comeback. Scutaro is not a power hitter, but he was constantly on base and scoring runs for San Francisco.

Starting pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito – not household names like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum – shut down the Cardinals in 21.2 innings, striking out 19 batters while only allowing two runs, four walks, and 14 hits.

The Giants advanced despite poor performances from MVP candidate Buster Posey and No. 2 starter Madison Bumgarner, but they will need their stars to show up in the World Series.

As for the Cardinals, St. Louis now understands the way Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals fans felt after being eliminated by the Cardinals in past seasons.

In 2011, the Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series twice, yet the Cardinals rallied back to become World Champions. This year, the Nationals were winning 7-5 in Game Five of the NLDS before St. Louis scored four runs in the ninth inning to ruin Washington’s first postseason since 1933.

The Cardinals should still be competitive next year, as they have a strong young core and plenty of pitching depth. This year, however, will be remembered as the year the comeback kings were finally vanquished.

World Series Preview

Now the Giants face the unenviable position of taking on the fully-rested Detroit Tigers in the World Series, which starts at 8 p.m. The Tigers had plenty of time to set their starting rotation and are the favorites headed into the series.

Detroit’s rotation – Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer – has been lights out in the playoffs. In 62.0 innings, these four pitchers combined for a mere 1.02 ERA, 66 strikeouts, 19 walks, and 35 hits.

The Giants’ rotation has the ability to match Detroit’s, but a few of its key members are scuffling. Bumgarner posted a 3.37 ERA in the regular season, but he allowed ten runs in eight innings in the playoffs.

More importantly, while Vogelsong and Zito came through in the NLCS, they are not top-end starting pitchers. The Giants need Lincecum to pitch like a two-time Cy Young Award winner, but he owned a 5.18 ERA in the regular season and gave up four runs in 4.2 innings in his only postseason start.

The Tigers only real weakness on the pitching side is Jose Valverde. Valverde is technically still Detroit’s closer, but Phil Coke has the last two saves for the Tigers. Tigers fans hope not to see Valverde in any big moments over the next week, as he allowed seven runs in 2.1 innings in the postseason.

As for the offense, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera led the Tigers. Detroit’s likely World Series lineup posted an .819 OPS in the regular season — significantly better than San Francisco’s .771.

The Tigers do have better hitters overall, but the Giants drop-off is also in part to the absence of Melky Cabrera.

Before Cabrera’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, he was leading the NL in batting average and owned a .906 OPS. The Giants chose not activate him for the playoffs, so they hope to muster enough offense behind Posey, Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval to prevail.

The Tigers have a better offense and defense, but anything can happen in a seven-game series. It is also possible that the Giants’ pitchers remember how to pitch and the Tigers’ bats go cold.

No matter the final result, you should enjoy the last baseball we get until spring training rolls around next year.

Contact Jim Piascik at [email protected].