Published November 20, 2014
The Detroit Tigers will have been off for five full days when they take the field on Wednesday to start to 108th edition of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
Now, 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 in 2006 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 where 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 yea, 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.
Now truth be told, he admitted he didn't have his best stuff against the New York Yankees in his ALCS start, but he still only gave up a run and three hits in 8 1/3 innings of that one and was throwing 99 mph when he left in the ninth.
After that game he said he is close to running on fumes and he may have two or three good starts left in him. And wouldn't you know it, he may be needed three times against a Giants team that seemingly doesn't know how to quit.
It hasn't just been Verlander, though. The entire rotation has been lights out this postseason, as Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer have combined with their ace to post an amazing 1.02 ERA in nine postseason starts.
An interesting wrinkle here is that it was actually Verlander who helped give San Francisco home-field advantage in this series, as he surrendered five first-inning runs and took the loss for the AL in the All-Star Game.
"I keep telling everyone, 'God, if I hadn't given it up, we'd be at home,'" Verlander told USA Today over the weekend.
Then there is Cabrera.
With a batting average of .330 along with 44 home runs and 139 RBI, he led the AL in all three categories and finished tops in both leagues in homers and RBI to become the majors' first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The 29-year-old set career highs in homers and RBI and had the second-best batting average of his career, trailing his .344 mark from the 2011 season.
Cabrera struggled in the ALDS, only driving in one run and batting .250 against the A's, but he got himself right against the Yankees, as he hit .313 with four RBI.
His impact could be an even bigger factor if Prince Fielder can get it going.
Fielder enjoyed his first year in Motown by hitting .313 with 30 home runs and 108 RBI, but hasn't been able to get it going in the playoffs and is hitting just .211. However, he is a .311 lifetime hitter at AT&T Park.
While Fielder has struggled, the Tigers got a huge contribution from ALCS MVP Delmon Young, who hit .294 with two home runs and eight RBI against the Yankees. He's primarily been the team's designated hitter, but will see some time in left field over the first two games of this series in San Francisco.
Everything on paper suggests the Tigers should win this series. But as they say, that is why they play the games. Detroit's biggest obstacle might be having to overcome the mojo this Giants' club seems to have. They've been counted out every step of the way but somehow keep prevailing. How much longer can that magic continue?
My guess is that it ends here and Detroit will be celebrating its first World Series title since 1984 sometime next week.