Top five World Series game-changers

MELISSA COUTO, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

1. Getting through the Tigers rotation

The San Francisco Giants hit the ball like mad men throughout the National League Championship Series, tagging St. Louis  Cardinals’ pitchers for 35 runs in seven games.

By contrast, the Tigers starters, with a combined 1.02 ERA this post-season, allowed just two runs to the Yankees over their four-game sweep of the so-called Bronx bombers.

If San Francisco hopes to do any damage, it’ll have to get through a rotation that, though seemingly impenetrable, also is comprised entirely of right-handed hurlers.

The Giants have a wealth of left-handed (or switch-hitting) bats in their lineup that greatly contributed in the NLCS — Brandon Belt (.304) and Pablo Sandoval (.310), for example.

Max Scherzer has allowed a .292 batting average against lefties in 2012, versus the .201 average he allowed against righties, and Doug Fister, holding right-handed opponents to a .220 batting average through the regular season, has allowed lefties to hit .270 against him.

2. Breaking out the offence

Not only do the Giants have to get on the board, but they have to do it often and in clusters.

That seems to have worked for them so far.

In all four of their NLCS wins, San Francisco scored four runs or more in a single inning, creating leads which proved insurmountable for their opponents.

The Bay Area team will be looking to Marco Scutaro to continue his red-hot streak. Named NLCS MVP on Monday, Scutaro had 14 hits in 28 at-bats against St. Louis for a .500 batting average. He comes into the World Series on a 10-game hitting streak, and had six multiple hit games in the NLCS.

On the other end of the spectrum is Buster Posey. After winning the National League batting title at the end of the regular season, Posey has not lived up to his potential so far in the post-season, hitting .154 against the Cardinals.

3. The closer problem

Detroit’s bullpen has pretty much followed the path set for them by their starters this post-season.

Giving up only eight hits over the Yankees in their ALCS sweep, everyone seems to be exceeding Jim Leyland’s expectations.

Everyone, that is, except Jose Valverde.

One of the best closers in baseball last season, Valverde has already allowed seven runs in 22/3 innings so far this post-season, including giving up a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS.

Despite Valverde’s struggles, Leyland continued to insist that the 34-year-old would keep the closer’s role this post-season. But with Phil Coke emerging as a capable substitute, it will be interesting to see if Leyland changes his mind. Coke didn’t allow a single run through 52/3 innings versus the Yankees.

4. Shaking off the rust

Think back to 2006.

Detroit had just swept the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS and were enjoying a long period of rest before the start of the World Series. St. Louis, going right into it from the NLCS, took the championship away from the well-rested Tigers in five game.

Leyland is hoping this time will be different. Even though the Tigers haven’t played since sweeping the Yankees last Wednesday, they’ve been competing in inter-squad games at Comerica Park all week, even calling up players from their instructional leagues to help dust off any cobwebs.

Above all, the Tigers will have to avoid sloppy play in the field against this scrappy San Francisco team that pounced on the five errors committed by the Cardinals in the NLCS to score 11 unearned runs in seven games.

Back in the 2006 World Series, Tigers players recorded eight errors after six days of rest, so Detroit will have to be extra sharp against this Giants team that hasn’t had a break since the playoffs began.

5. The power of the digital rally

After winning six straight elimination games this post-season, San Francisco is certainly coming into the World Series on a high note.

And their fans have overpowered Twitter in the ensuing mayhem.

With 332,517 followers, the Giants boast over 150,000 more than their World Series opponent.

How could this benefit the Giants?

Thanks to a lopsided win by the National League at this year’s all-star game, the Bay Area team will enjoy home-field advantage, as it has throughout the entire post-season.

Detroit hasn’t done well on the road, finishing 2012 with a 38-43 record away from Comerica Park. San Francisco, meanwhile, was 48-33 on home soil.

If the excitement generated over Twitter can continue to spill into reality at AT&T Park, the crowd, which seems to be getting louder with each passing game, will surely provide an electric atmosphere for the hometown team.


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