RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The Major League Baseball season has wound its way down to two teams with histories stretching back over a century. But in all that time, the San Francisco Giants, originally from New York, and the Detroit Tigers have never met in the World Series until tonight. Game One is in San Francisco. It matches a well-rested Detroit team that hasn't played in nearly a week and a Giants team that pulled off its latest Houdini-like escape to get to the championship round.
NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us to preview what should be an exciting best four out of seven game series. Good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So, the Giants won the World Series in 2010, kind of a surprise that they're back this year.
GOLDMAN: Well, yes and no. Yes, it's a surprise when you consider we are they've been during this postseason. They have been this close to elimination six times and each time they came back from the brink. Versus Cincinnati in the division series, San Francisco lost the first two at home. Then facing elimination in each of the next three games, the Giants won all three - in Cincinnati.
Now, in the National League championship series, same thing. They staked the defending World Series Champions, St. Louis Cardinals, to a three games to one lead. Then won three straight. Again, each game a win or you're out situation. These six victories and eliminations games ties the playoff record, and it has baseball fans buzzing about these Giants being the ultimate comeback kids.
MONTAGNE: OK, so that's the yes. What's the no? Why isn't it a surprise that the Giants are in the World Series?
GOLDMAN: Well, no because they won their division in the regular season by a comfortable eight games. And they were one of the teams going into the playoffs pegged as having a good chance to win the title.
Sports Illustrated's baseball expert Tom Verducci says the Giants are built just right for a new style of postseason; a team that can slap hits all over the field, drive-in runners in scoring position; a team that doesn't hit a lot of home runs - and the Giants are last in the Majors during the regular season with only 103 home runs. But a team that can avoid striking out a lot, because strikeout numbers are way up in baseball. So, in this sense, the Giants are right where they should be in this World Series.
MONTAGNE: And with all the attention on the Giants' comeback, we kind of forgot about the Tigers who've had time to rest after they swept the New York Yankees in their league championship series. So what is the deal? Are they rested or maybe a little rusted?
GOLDMAN: They like to say rested and ready to go. They're very aware that last time they were in the World Series in 2006, they swept the series before hand, just like this time, and they had time to kill. And they lost handily to St. Louis in that World Series. On top of that, for the Tigers, here is a tiny troubling stat. Three times in the past, in World Series, when a team that's swept its way into the series, like Detroit did, played a team that went the full seven games, like the Giants did, the team that went seven won every time.
So the Tigers are out to change a little statistical history. They've got a good chance. Odds makers favor them with their great hitting for both power and average. They're led by the best all-around hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, first to win baseball's Triple Crown since 1967; and the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander, who starts tonight's Game One against San Francisco's Barry Zito. Verlander is a power pitcher in his prime. He leads a great starting pitching rotation for the Tigers.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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