At last, Major League Baseball's long regular season is behind us and the expanded playoffs have finally whittled the contestants to two teams as the San Francisco Giants square off against the Detroit Tigers in this year's World Series.
Detroit dominated the New York Yankees in the ALCS before sitting back to watch the NLCS to see who they would meet. The Giants completed their quest in the rain on Monday, dispatching the St. Louis Cardinals who held a 3-1 series last week at the same time the Tigers were celebrating their 10th AL pennant. San Francisco's victory over St. Louis marked the second time this postseason the club staved off elimination with three consecutive wins after doing the same to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS.
Even though the Giants have home-field advantage for the Series, it's Detroit who is the decided favorite to capture a fifth World Championship. The Tigers are -170 to take down San Francisco who is getting +150 to win their second World Series in three years.
Game 1 gets underway Wednesday night at AT&T Park where Detroit is again a $1.70 favorite behind its ace, Justin Verlander. Barry Zito will oppose the Tigers and the scoreboard hurdle for the Series opener is 6½ ('over' -125).
San Francisco will be looking for its 13th consecutive victory behind Zito in Game 1. The veteran southpaw has never really lived up to the huge contract he signed with the Giants in 2006 following seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics, but he came through when it counted last Friday by tossing a gem in Game 5 of the NLCS.
Zito has pitched to a 3.60 ERA during the current 13-game win streak for the Giants when he has been on the mound, certainly nothing special about that mark. But for whatever reason, the San Francisco lineup has shown up in those games with 81 runs over the span (6.23 rpg) compared to the team's 4.43 rpg average during the regular season.
The Giants will be hard-pressed to deliver much support against Verlander who has won each of his three starts in the postseason while sporting a tiny 0.74 ERA, The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner went 17-8 during the regular season with a 2.64 ERA.
Conflicting trends await bettors as far as the totals go in this series. The Tigers are +21 units to the 'under' this season while the Giants are +20 to the 'over.' Five of Detroit's postseason games stayed below the total, along with one 'push,' while San Fran saw eight of its 12 NL playoff tilts skip above the number, also with one 'push.'
San Francisco is hoping home-field advantage does pay off after going 51-36 at AT&T Park this season (including 3-3 in the playoffs). Detroit is 41-45 away from home (3-2 in postseason).
Detroit has a more powerful lineup with the likes of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the middle of the order, but the Tigers will have to begin the Series following National League rules, which means no DH. San Francisco's starting pitchers in the final three games of the NLCS -- Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain -- each recorded an RBI, which will be something to watch as the Series gets underway.
This is the first time the Tigers and Giants have met in the World Series despite the two combining for 31 appearances over the years. They have met in four interleague series during the regular season, most recently in 2011 when the Giants won two of three with the 'over' also going 2-1.
Stay in touch with Don Best throughout the World Series for previews and analysis, and don't forget to check out the Don Best Pro Odds to keep you up to date on all the betting action.