SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Detroit Tigers will have had six days off heading into the opening game of theWorld Series on Wednesday, prompting the eternal question — was that time to rest or time to rust?
While the Tigers completed a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the American League DivisionSeries last Thursday, their World Series opponent, the San Francisco Giants, are fresh off winning three straight games to take the National League equivalent.
With only two days’ rest since finishing off the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants may have an edge in match sharpness and history suggests that is more important than rest.
Detroit has cause to fret about the similarity to its last World Series appearance six years ago, when it had a similarly long wait and was beaten by St. Louis.
This year they’ve stayed busy by working on bunts, playing against their instructional league team and letting ace Justin Verlander pitch to hitters.
“We just tried to come up with something,” manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday. “It wasn’t like in 2006, where some people would indicate we sat around happy to get there, not doing anything, eating bon-bons.”
“That wasn’t the case. We ran into bad weather problems in Detroit, so we were really handicapped,” the manager said. “So this time we’ve done some things to try to keep us from being idle for four or five days. I definitely think it affected the last World Series.”
Verlander will start Game 1 on Wednesday against Barry Zito, whose pitching performance in Game 5 of the NLCS turned that series around.
“I feel like I haven’t played in over two months when you clinch so quick like this and have to wait for the other team,” Tigers reliever Jose Valverde said.
Not quite that long.
“What is it, eight months of baseball? What’s five days?” Tigers star Prince Fielder asked.
Said Zito: ” I guess we can hypothesize for a while on how prepared they are, being that they haven’t played these high-intensity games.”
The Tigers traveled to San Francisco on Tuesday and held a late-afternoon workout at AT&T Park.
“I loved it because it means we’re in the World Series,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. “Someone asked me that question after we won and I was like, ‘Would you rather if we had lost some of those games?’ It doesn’t really matter to me. We did everything we could to stay mentally sharp.”
The Giants had no trouble in that department. They’ve been on quite a wild ride this October, first overcoming a 2-0 deficit to beat Cincinnati in the best-of-five division series, then escaping a 3-1 hole to beat the defending champion Cardinals.
“You have to throw it all away because it could work in either team’s favor,” Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “We’ve been playing every day, so guys might be a little more tired, whereas they’ve got more rest. Then again, we’ve been playing, so we’ve got our timing, where they might not.”
Three times in the past, the World Series has matched a team that went to Game 7 in the LCS against a club that swept its series. In all three instances, the team coming off a Game 7 win breezed to the championship.
Boston swept Colorado in 2007, St. Louis downed Detroit in five games in 2006 and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Oakland in five games in 1988.
“We’re in the groove and feeling good,” Giants ace Matt Cain said.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has gone both routes in early rounds. The Tigers slugger was a rookie with the Marlins in 2003 when they rallied past the Chicago Cubs to win the seven-game NLCS and went on to beat the Yankees for the title.
This time, the Tigers gave themselves five off days.
“It’s very different. In ’03 we came from behind like San Francisco did this year,” he said. “We have to focus on what we can do. We can’t focus on, ‘OK we haven’t played, we’re going to get down.’ It’s tough. We have to be ready to play tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
There’s not a lot of history between these historic franchises — they’ve never met in the postseason, and have played only 12 times since interleague action began in 1997.
“I don’t really know the Giants that well. I’m kind of getting a crash course on them,” Leyland said.
“But to be honest, when they were down 0-2 going into Cincinnati having to win three games, for me that was unbelievable. So nothing surprised me when they got to the championship series after I saw what they did in the divisional series,” he said.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy has also been doing some cramming.
“I’ll have to learn a lot about them real soon, to be honest,” Bochy said.
“I know what a great club they are. And we know all about the guy we’re going to be facing opening day and their whole staff,” he said. “They swept the Yankees. That tells you how good they are.”