Texas vs. San Francisco
Both teams have that underdog feel to them, but Texas and San Francisco took very different roads to get here. Texas was in command of its division most of the season, and realizing some tweaks would be necessary to get to the next level, they made the biggest tweak of them all in acquiring Cliff Lee. San Francisco was playing from behind all year long until a San Diego slump and a month of some of the most dominant pitching in the history of the game earned the Giants a trip to the playoffs on the last day of the season. Since then, both teams have proven themselves several times over as they anxiously wait for the World Series to begin tonight.
Just like the NLCS, the Giants can matchup in the pitching department but fall short in the hitting categories. Having won the NLCS, however, it's not easy to discount San Fran solely based on that observation. Instead, let's take it game by game.
Tim Lincecum figures to stymie the Texas hitters, many whom have little or no experience facing him. Cliff Lee, a pitcher I would take over Halladay any day, though, is pitching for Texas and completely neutralizes San Fran's big weapon. Lee should be able to frustrate the Giants all night long, although Juan Uribe has had some success against Lee and will pound out a couple hits. Lincecum won't be able to pitch around Josh Hamilton thanks to Guerrero, Cruz, Kinsler, etc., so I expect Lincecum to give up a couple runs against that core and exit the game before Lee, spelling out a Rangers victory.
Look for Matt Cain to right the ship in Game 2. Cain will go deep into the game, causing the Fox announcers to talk about pitch counts more than anyone will ever care to hear. Cain will yield to Brian Wilson (with the possible exception being a quick Javier Lopez appearance) and the series will be tied.
Buster Posey will finally break through in Game 3, but Jonathan Sanchez will continue his control implosion from the NLCS, letting Texas score a handful of runs early without the benefit of many hits. Hamilton will go deep in this game and Texas will win a high scoring affair.
Game 4 will be a game everyone will expect to be high scoring, but both starting pitchers (Bumgarner and Hunter) will get out of several jams, keeping the score low and close. Neither pitcher will finish the 6th inning, however, and a Cody Ross home run will go to waste as the Giants bullpen which has been so effective will finally let one slip away as Vladimir Guerrero's late clutch hit gives Texas a come from behind win.
Facing elimination, Tim Lincecum will give a great effort, but a confident and well-rested Cliff Lee simply won't let the Rangers lose. Nelson Cruz and Michael Young will get the timely hits off Lincecum, and Cliff Lee will finish off the Giants with a complete game, his only earned run coming from an Aubrey Huff solo home run.
That's the way I see it, and I really hope I'm wrong, because the pitching matchups are even enough that a seven game series is certainly possible. Game 7 would be a drama-filled contest knowing that guys like Lincecum and Lee would have a couple days rest and would be waiting in the bullpen. Baseball could use a thrilling World Series, especially with no East Coast interest and a lack of well known veteran superstars, but I feel that Cliff Lee will really be a difference maker in two of the games, and Texas has enough hitting to win two of the other three games to close it out in Game 5.
Prediction: Texas in 5