The World Series is finally here, being played in two cities that have hosted it a combined three times. All of those appearances, of course, have been in San Francisco, which has seen the Giants lose it three times since coming west from New York in 1958. The Rangers? To this point, they've done the same thing they did as the Washington Senators - and their successor in Washington has done since it first started play in Montreal in 1969: Fail to reach the World Series.
That all changes tonight, when Texas sends Cliff Lee to the mound at San Francisco's AT&T Park for its first-ever World Series game. There weren't too many people who would have predicted these two teams would be standing at the end, but it's often these matchups that make for the most dramatic series, and we could be set up for a good one here.
Both clubs come in having knocked off the defending pennant winner in their respective leagues, the Giants and Rangers having dispatched the Phillies and Yankees, respectively, in six games. Both cities are gearing up to celebrate their first championship in the sport. And in a year where pitching has dominated, both teams have the arms to make this a classic.
It starts tonight with Lee and Tim Lincecum, who have a combined three Cy Young Awards in the last two years. They'll likely face off at least once more in this series, and both teams have starters to back them up: Colby Lewis has been a revelation in these playoffs for the Rangers, while All-Star Matt Cain is a worthy counterpart to Lincecum.
The Giants' and Rangers' bullpens had the second- and fifth-best ERAs in baseball this year, too. It took pitching to get here, and these teams have it.
So, without further ado, here's how I see the Series going:
The Rangers will win if: They can manufacture enough offense to win a game or two on the road. Texas' aggressive running game has been a defining feature of these playoffs, and the Rangers come into the World Series swinging hotter bats than either the Braves or the Phillies did; they outscored the Yankees 38-19 in the ALCS and have put up at least five runs seven times in the postseason. But the Giants' pitching has been dominant, and San Francisco's AT&T Park has a secret weapon: winds off the San Francisco Bay that can kill would-be homers. Particularly if the Rangers can get a couple runs tonight with lee on the mound, they'll be in good shape heading back to Texas.
The Giants will win if: They keep pitching the way they have all month. They held the Braves to a .175 average in the NLDS, and effectively shut down the NL's best lineup in the NLCS, holding the Phillies to a .216 average. Their rotation is backed by what might be the game's best bullpen, and with four games at AT&T Park, the Giants have a good chance to win this series their way: on the back of their pitching staff, and almost in spite of their offense.
My prediction: It's difficult to understate how important Game 1 is tonight. Both teams have their aces on the mound, and whichever one loses will have to come back knowing they likely have one start left from their best pitcher. Lee won Game 1 of the World Series on the road last year for the Phillies, and I think he does again tonight. That's a big advantage for the Rangers, and it would take away the Giants' home-field advantage. Texas' lineup is deep enough, and has been hitting well enough, to give the Giants trouble in a couple of these games, and assuming the rest of the Rangers' pitching holds up, they should have enough to get by the Giants in a low-profile, but very entertaining series. Rangers in 6.