Rounding Third: Tigers, Giants set to cap terrific postseason

The Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants will open the 108th edition of the World Series on Wednesday at AT&T Park.

It's the final act on what's been an absolutely terrific postseason for Major League Baseball.

Say what you want about the extra wild card teams, but it gave fans two elimination contests right out of the chute. And that Friday evening set the tone for a postseason that would feature a league-record five more do-or-die contests.

You can't ask for much more than that.

And what's left? Well, only two of the more storied franchises in baseball history battling for the right to be World Series champion. This will be the Giants' 19th trip to the World Series, while the Tigers will be in the Fall Classic for the 11th time in their history.

Amazingly, though, their paths have not crossed in October, until now.

If you are a baseball fan, you might be spent after these last couple weeks, especially if you have a rooting interest in the Giants, who have defined resiliency in these playoffs, becoming the first National League team to rally back from an 2-0 deficit in the NLDS and climbing out of a 3-1 hole in their NLCS matchup.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have been idle since finishing off a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the ALCS on Thursday. Their road here may not have been quite as difficult as the Giants, but they are back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 2006.

After beating the Oakland Athletics in five games of the ALDS, the AL Central champion Tigers had a much easier time than anyone would have thought against the Yankees, as they took the first two games in the Bronx before sealing the series with two straight wins in Detroit, including an 8-1 thrashing over CC Sabathia in the clincher.

History has told us that the long layoff doesn't give any advantage and the Tigers can attest to that, as they were in a similar situation six years ago and were defeated in five games by a St. Louis Cardinals team that had just played a seven-game series.

"I think they're going about it the right way," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm not too excited about it, myself, to be honest with you, but I think they're taking it the right way. They know they need to see some pitching and in-game conditions. They're doing it business-like. I won't say they're all giddy about it, but they're doing it business-like, and that's the purpose of it.

"I told them why we're here, what the plan was, why we have the plan that we have. There are a couple guys here from the team in 2006, so I explained to them why we're doing it and what happened in 2006."

In fact, since the LCS expanded to a seven-game format in 1985, there have been three instances when a sweeping team will be going up against a club that was forced to win in seven games and all three times the team with the additional rest was defeated.

But this has been one of the wackiest postseasons in recent memory, so why not buck the trend again here? And, oh yeah, the Tigers happen to have not only the best pitcher on the planet, but the best hitter as well.

So, you can talk about history and momentum all you want. Give me the team with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.

Especially this version of Verlander, who has seemingly put any postseason struggles he may have had entering these playoffs behind him. The American League's reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner, who had pitched to a 5.57 ERA in eight postseason appearances prior to this season, has been sensational for the Tigers here in October, going 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA while striking out 25 batters in 24 1/3 innings.

In all, he's won his last seven starts and has given up one earned run or less in six of those outings. In case you were wondering, he surrendered two in the other one.

San Francisco, though, has some mojo working in its favor, winning six straight elimination games. But the Giants just don't have the pitching to compete with the Tigers in this series.

That sounds a bit ridiculous considering it's essentially the same staff that carried them to a World Series title just two years ago, but do you think anyone in the Bay Area is confident in the fact that Barry Zito is starting Game 1?

And it's not even a question that it's him getting the ball rather than two- time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

Plus you have to wonder just how much is left in the tank of San Francisco? All those games with its backs against the wall in the first two rounds has to have taken a toll.

It does rub me the wrong way that the only reason the Giants have home field advantage for this series is the fact that the NL won the All-Star Game thanks in part to the heroics of disgraced San Francisco juice head Melky Cabrera.

But, then again, the Giants finished with a better regular-season record than the Tigers and in a perfect world that would be how we determine such things anyway. MLB caught a break here.

Either way it should be an entertaining series.

The Tigers were my World Series pick at the start of the season. No reason to change now. TIGERS in SIX