Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse square off in Game 7 of the NLCS Monday night, with the winner advancing to the World Series to take on the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers swept the Yankees in four games in the ALCS behind dominant starting pitching and timely hitting.
The Detroit Tigers are resting at home and awaiting their opponent, but they are in big trouble. Whichever team captures the National League crown in 2012 will dominate the Tigers in the World Series for a number of reasons.
An eerily similar scenario played out in 2006 when the Detroit Tigers swept the Oakland A's in the ALCS and had a full week of rest before the World Series.
The Cardinals needed a 3-1 Game 7 win over the New York Mets to reach the World Series and only had a travel day to make it to Detroit.
The Cardinals captured the World Series in five games in 2006, as the Tigers pitching staff made a comedy of errors and the team looked out of sorts.
The rest is much-needed for the Tigers after a long season, but will they come out well-rested and ready to go this time around, or will they be very rusty like they were just six years ago?
According to USA Today Sports' Steve Gardner, Detroit ace Justin Verlander feels differently about this year.
"I think we learned our lesson from 2006 and we'll approach things a little differently this time," Verlander said.
As I wrote in a previous article, the Giants and Cardinals both have very deep and talented bullpens. The Detroit bullpen hasn't been atrocious in the postseason (3.92 ERA), but both NL teams have much better bullpens.
Tigers closer Jose Valverde has been awful in the postseason, giving up seven runs in just 2.1 innings (27.00 ERA). Lefty Phil Coke has converted two saves and has yet to allow a run in the postseason, but he is not the solution as the closer.
Coke has done an excellent job, but his ideal role is to get lefty batters out.
It isn't clear what skipper Jim Leyland plans to do in the World Series, but it will be tough to put the shaky Valverde in with the game on the line.
St. Louis' bullpen (2.22 ERA) features several fireballers, and San Francisco's bullpen (2.79 ERA) is very strong even without Brian Wilson.
The World Series will likely feature close games. The Detroit starting rotation has been remarkable (1.02 ERA in playoffs), but it is unrealistic that the starters can keep those eye-popping numbers up.
The Detroit bullpen will struggle in the Fall Classic and be the reason the Cardinals or Giants win the series.
Momentum and Home-Field Advantage
Whichever team wins Game 7 of the NLCS will be riding an emotional high that it will want to carry over into the World Series.
It is true that the Tigers have momentum after sweeping away the Yankees, but that momentum has fizzled because they've been resting for the World Series. The Tigers pitched and played well, but the Yankees also played a pretty poor series.
Whoever wins the hard-fought NLCS will have accomplished more in the playoffs than the Tigers up to this point.
Also, the NL representative in the World Series has home-field advantage after winning the All-Star game. This fact is a little overrated, but six of the last nine teams to have home-field advantage in the Fall Classic went on to win.
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