Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Sizing up the World Series opponents

Biggest questions

For the Tigers, it's the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde (above left) is supposedly still the closer, but he hasn't pitched since nearly blowing Game 1 of the ALCS in New York on Oct. 13. Detroit manager Jim Leyland can keep talking about how he still believes in Valverde and how he made some mechanical adjustments, but if the game is on the line tonight, will Leyland have the confidence to use him? Phil Coke (above right) filled in well vs. the Yankees, but they had more of a left-handed lineup.

For the Giants, it's the rotation to start the series. Their most reliable postseason starters, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, worked Sunday and Monday, so they're out until the series goes to Detroit. That left the Giants to sort through three inconsistent options, and they decided to open tonight with lefty Barry Zito (above left), then go with LHP Madison Bumgarner, who was very bad in his last start, ahead of fan fave Tim Lincecum (above right).

The X(-Rays) Factor

The Tigers have two, in DH/OF Delmon Young, who starts, and RHP Joaquin Benoit, who usually works the eighth. The Giants have one in INF Aubrey Huff, who is now primarily a pinch-hitter. But it's a once-potential Ray you'll hear the most about, Giants C Buster Posey, whom the Rays considered for the first pick of the 2008 draft; they instead chose INF Tim Beckham, who hit .256 in his first full season at Triple A (around a 50-game drug suspension) and probably won't be on the 2013 opening day roster. Posey has been to two World Series and could win the NL MVP this year.

Personal matters

. As if being rich, handsome and possibly the best in the game at what he does weren't enough, Tigers RHP Justin Verlander is said (by, among other people, his own grandfather) to be dating supermodel and SI swimsuit issue cover girl Kate Upton, right.

. Giants 3B coach Tim Flannery is an accomplished musician, specializing in bluegrass ballads, and has released 11 albums and performed with numerous big names such as Jimmy Buffett and Willie Nelson.

. Tigers RHP Max Scherzer has a genetic condition known as heterochromia, which means his eyes are different colors: The right one is blue, the left brown.

. Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner is very much true to his rural North Carolina roots; he married his high-school sweetheart on Valentine's Day 2010 and as a present gave her a 5-day-old bull calf.

. Tigers 1B Prince Fielder is the (somewhat estranged) son of former Tigers/Yankees/etc. slugger Cecil Fielder. Tigers C Alex Avila's father, Al, is the team's assistant GM.

. Giants RHP Sergio Romo has a tattoo on his right arm best described as "a monster with several faces," reflecting different parts of his personality: Competitor, joker, beast, coward.

Funny-looking fans

We're talking about the ones in San Francisco for now, and they're among the most energized and colorful around. Among the looks you'll see: Panda hats and costumes in honor of 3B Pablo Sandoval, who is known as Kung Fu Panda, and long-haired wigs in tribute to Tim Lincecum, whom they call The Freak.

The DY-DH dilemma

AL teams usually have issues trying to get their DH into the lineup for the Series games at the NL site. The Tigers say they plan to start Delmon Young, who was MVP of the ALCS, in leftfield, where he made 29 starts, last on Sept. 2. This shouldn't be the misadventure of some years (such as Vlad Guerrero for the Rangers in 2010), but Young is a little bigger and slower than when he used to play the field regularly, and he doesn't throw as well.

Name droppers

Actor Jeff Daniels — most recently of HBO's The Newsroom — is a major Tigers fans, acknowledging he's "borderline religious" and almost in need of therapy. … Actor/comedian Rob Schneider, who tends to have small parts in a lot of things, tends to show up at most big Giants games. … Both teams use the music of Journey at their stadiums, the Giants playing to Lights ("When the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the bay") and the Tigers to Don't Stop Believin' ("Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit").

Odds on

According to the online Bovada sports book, the Tigers are the favorites to win, most likely in five games. Here are the odds on some of the potential outcomes, and a few other issues:

Tigers sweep: 15-2Giants sweep: 18-1
Tigers in 5: 7-2Giants in 5: 9-1
Tigers in 6: 4-1Giants in 6: 11-2
Tigers in 7: 9-2Giants in 7: 9-2

MVP

Miguel Cabrera, DET5-1
Buster Posey, SF13-2
Justin Verlander, DET8-1
Prince Fielder, DET8-1
Delmon Young, DET12-1
Hunter Pence, SF12-1
Marco Scutaro, SF12-1
Pablo Sandoval, SF12-1


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