What a difference a month makes. Despite enduring a tumultuous regular season, the Detroit Tigers find themselves facing off against the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series.
This is the first postseason meeting between the two teams in their storied histories. The Tigers achieved their first American League pennant since 2006, beating the Oakland Athletics in five games and sweeping the Yankees in four. The Giants reached the World Series for the second time in three years, beating the Cincinnati Reds in five games and the St. Louis Cardinals in seven.
The Tigers have experienced a rollercoaster of a season.
After signing slugger Prince Fielder in the off-season to a nine year, $214 million contract some experts predicted they would win the AL Central by 15 games. But going into the All-Star break the Tigers had a disappointing 44-42 record, sitting half a game behind the Cleveland Indians and three and a half games behind the Chicago White Sox.
Reigning MVP Justin Verlander was not getting the help he needed from the rest of the pitching rotation. Miguel Cabrera, Fielder and Austin Jackson were not getting help from the rest of the batting order.
But the Tigers kept playing, kept grinding out wins and waited until September to make their statement. Despite being three games behind the White Sox with two weeks left in the season, Detroit clinched the AL Central with an 88-74 record.
Miguel Cabrera has many experts thinking MVP after he won the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemzki did it 1967.
Cabrera had an unprecedented season, batting .330 with 44 homers and 139 runs batted in.
In an article featured on espn.com, Tigers hitting coach Lloyd Mclendon weighed in on his thoughts of Cabrera winning the fabled Triple Crown.
“We’re looking at history and we’re looking at a hall of famer,” Mclendon said. “The talk of this guy not winning the MVP to me is just absurd.”
Detroit started the post season against the Oakland Athletics, arguably the hottest in baseball at the time. The Tigers won the first two games at home in close fashion, winning 3-0 and 5-4 . They then lost two nailbiters in Oakland by scores of 2-0 and 4-3 respectively.
In the fifth and final game, pitched by Verlander, Detroit closed out the Athletics with an impressive 6-0 win. In his two starts against the A’s Verlander was 2-0 with 22 strikeouts and one earned run.
The next opponent for the Tigers was the New York Yankees. Detroit swept the Yankees in four games.
Against the Yankees, Detroit allowed only six runs, four of which came during the ninth inning in game one of the series. It marked the first time a team had swept the Yankees in a seven game series since 1976. The Detroit staring pitching had a combined ERA of 0.66.
After a streaky regular season Delmon Young has stepped up big in the playoffs. He was named MVP of the ALCS batting .353 with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Young became the first player ever to hit three game winning RBI’s in a series and then added a fourth.
The San Francisco Giants finished the season with a 94-68 record, clinching the NL West Championship. Unlike Detroit, the Giants had a firm lead in their division toward the end of the season.
In the postseason the Giants have had to play every game necessary, beating the Reds in five games and the Cardinals in seven games. This postseason San Francisco has refused to die, winning six elimination games by a combined score of 36-9.
In a CNN article, Buster Posey talked about the mentality of the Giants throughout the postseason.
“It’s a lot of want and a lot of will power,” Posey said. “You have to believe you can do it.”
The World Series will most likely come down to starting pitching.
For the Tigers it starts with Verlander. JV threw 23 straight scoreless innings at one point in the post season, the first pitcher to do so since 1957. He is also the first pitcher to throw an elimination game shut out with at least 10 strikeouts since 1965.
The Giants could go a number of directions in terms of their starting pitching. Tim Lincecum was pulled after just four innings in his only postseason start, but was terrific as a reliever against the Reds. Barry Zito is coming off of a phenomenal start in game five of the NLCS.
“I’m really confident about tonight. I’m really confident about Justin [Verlander] on the mound,” said Josh Cohen, Pleasant Ridge junior. “I think [Barry] Zito has had a good post season. Having said that, I am more confident in the Tigers line up than I am scared of the Giants lineup.”
Game 1 of the World Series begins tonight at 8:00 pm eastern, in San Francisco. Detroit faithful are confident going into the game with Verlander taking the mound for his fourth start of the postseason.