Well, its finally here: World Series Time! Aces Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum will face off in game one in approximately 56 hours and I can barely contain myself. As a huge Giants fan, I wanted two things at the outset of the playoffs: 1, for the Giants to reach the World Series and, 2, for the Yankees to get beat by the Rangers (since I knew the Twins couldn't do it). In case you missed it, both of these things has come true and I am now squarely placed in a large conundrum. What the hell do you do when both of your favorites make it to the World Series?
Since I am ultimately a Giants fan to the core whereas I have recently picked up on the Rangers, I suppose I should address this problem from the San Francisco perspective. I love teams with strong pitching. Lincecum is truly "the Freak," Matt Cain is as steady as a rock and Brian Wilson is, well, Brian Wison . I can even admit, although somewhat grudgingly, that I enjoy Barry Zito's overpriced 12-6 curveball. But wait a sec, the Rangers have some outstanding chuckers, too. Cliff is the best post-season pitcher in recent history, CJ Wilson has made an amazing transformation from back-end bullpen guy to successful starter and Neftali Feliz has some wicked hair hanging out the back of is cap, not to mention a crazy ability to close games. From a pitching standpoint, the series is pretty even with an ever-so-slight nod going to San Francisco.
I’ve always appreciated teams with an ability to do “the little things” like timely hitting, bunt a runner over and cash him in, hit the much-needed sacrifice fly or steal a base when necessary. Despite their offensive ineptitude at times, the Giants can do all of the things listed above. Bruce Bochy has had an innate ability to push all of the right buttons at all of the right times this post-season. With that said, there’s only one flaw here. The Rangers can hit the ball out of the park with insane regularity. Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Vladamir Guerrero and Ian Kinsler can all put the ball over the wall with authority. Even Bengie Molina, Michael Young and David Murphy can swat a big fly if one leaves a fastball out over the plate. The ability to hit homeruns with frequency eliminates the need to do “the little things.” The San Francisco pitching staff had better be nearly perfect because if they get down three, four or five runs or more, they will be in a nearly impossible situation because the offense lacks the ability to pick them up. There’s a big edge to the Rangers when it comes to the bats.
There are some intangibles in this series. The coaching staff’s are both solid, so that should be a push. One area I see things turning, however, is homefield advantage. There will be seven games in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, a beautiful ballpark if I may say so, and that should heavily favor the Giants. Sure the crowd will be cheering for the home team in those games, but the real advantage lies in the conditions at the park. AT&T is a tough park to hit a homerun in, especially this late in the season. Its often windy with the wind blowing in and the damp, coastal air has a way of knocking down fly balls. By the end of October and early November, these conditions will be at their most extreme. Since Texas relies on the thin Texas night air to hit so many of their homers, they will likely see a decrease in their ability to put the ball over the fence when the series is in San Francisco. This could be critical. The Giants are accustomed to the conditions and aren’t engineered to hit the long ball anyways, so the effects are pretty negligible to them. Add this to the difficulty some newcomers have in playing balls in Triples Corner and the Giants just might be able to win three of four at home. Last but not least is the fact that San Francisco is an awesome city while George “Dub-Ya” Bush owns the Rangers. The edge here is solidly in favor of the Giants since there are more games in San Francisco than Arlington.
Through it all, I see the Rangers taking this series, probably in five or six games. Best-case-scenario is the Giants pushing a game seven in which Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum both pitch on three days rest with the wind blowing way in creating lots of fly ball outs for the Rangers while the Giants succeed at playing small-ball and stealing a home and clinching victory. But don’t bet on it. In all likelihood, Texas takes game one, the Giants game two and then the series goes to Arlington. There the Rangers will take game three, the Giants game four and the Rangers game five before the series goes back to San Fran. I believe the Rangers will take came six and win the series but, I could be wrong. I just don’t see the Giants being able to keep up offensively, especially against the incredible pitching wonder, Cliff Lee. Respecting both teams so much, there’s only one thing I know: it’s World Series Time and it’s going to be fun to watch!