Wiedmer: Expect Giants to fall behind in Series but eventually win

Wiedmer: Expect Giants to fall behind in Series but eventually win

October 24th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws during the first inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in San Francisco.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Not everyone attending Rick Honeycutt's annual charity golf event Tuesday morning at Battlefield Golf Club owes his livelihood to major league baseball.

Former Atlanta Falcons kicker Morten Andersen, for instance, became rich and famous through pro football. The vast majority of other folks helping Honeycutt help others have succeeded in coaching, teaching and business.

Yet the big leagues clearly were well represented, from Atlanta Braves reliever Cory Gearrin and pitching coach Roger McDowell to Seattle Mariners relievers Shawn Kelley and Stephen Pryor, Lehigh Valley IronPigs hitting coach Sal Rende, former major leaguer Jay Howell and Honeycutt, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach.

So with all that talent and experience on hand, it seemed like a natural to ask at least a few of them whether the American League's Detroit Tigers or the National League's San Francisco Giants should win the World Series, which begins tonight at the Giants' loud and lovely AT&T Park.

"I'll go with the Giants," said Rende, long a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. "They've had their backs against the wall the whole postseason and come through. I also think the layoff [waiting for the Cardinals-Giants series to conclude] will hurt the Tigers."

Said the former Dodger McDowell with a grin: "No comment."

Then he swiftly added, "Obviously, I'm pulling for the National League. But I think it's going to be a great Series, really good pitching on both sides, low scoring."

Gearrin wouldn't pick a winner, saying only, "They've both been hot lately. I think it will go six or seven games."

If it goes the distance, the Giants will own the home field because San Fran starter Matt Cain beat Detroit ace Justin Verlander in this year's All-Star Game, thus delivering home-field advantage to the National League.

But Verlander also strung together 23 straight scoreless innings in the postseason, and if he pitches with similar perfection tonight, the Giants' home edge is swiftly lost.

Of course, if Verlander can't keep San Fran off the basepaths, he could give up a few runs, since the Giants led all of baseball this season in scoring runs with runners on base.

Pitchers such as Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito may have been the obvious stars of San Fran's rally from a 1-3 hole against St. Louis in the NLCS, but second baseman Marco Scutaro had 14 hits against the Redbirds and the Giants have won 13 straight when Barry Zito starts, which he is expected to tonight.

There's also this about Zito, who saved San Fran in the NLCS Game 5 elimination game at St. Louis:

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, using words that could apply to much of his roster, given they won three straight to come from an 0-2 hole against Cincinnati in the division series and then three straight to knock out the Cards: "Barry's a little different than what he was when he won the Cy Young [iwith Oakland]. Sometimes in this game you've got to make adjustments -- that's what the game is about. And Barry's done that. He's developed a cutter. He doesn't have that same velocity, so he's had to change his style a little bit. He deserves a lot of credit."

Grizzled, guileful Tigers manager Jim Leyland deserves a lot of credit for guiding Detroit back to the Series for the first time since its 2006 loss to St. Louis, even if he arguably has the best pitcher (Verlander) and the position player in the game in Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

Leyland also has a big supporter in Honeycutt, though perhaps not for the most rational of reasons.

"I just can't root for the Giants," he said while clothed in a Dodger blue golf shirt. "I hate the Giants. I've got to pull for Leyland on this one."

And neither Giants fans nor Dodgers fans would probably want it any other way.

As for me, I'll take San Fran in six, the Giants winning every game not pitched by Verlander.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com