The year of the pitcher has turned into the postseason of the underdog, which may benefit the San Francisco Giants as they seek a first World Series title since 1954.
The Texas Rangers are the 5-6 favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton to win on their first visit to the World Series. The Giants, who last played for the Major League Baseball championship in 2002, are even money, meaning a winning $100 wager would return $100 along with the initial stake.
“It could be the closest World Series in years,” Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hilton Race and Sports Book, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a fascinating contest between the pitching of the Giants and the hitting of the Rangers.”
The Giants will host the first two games on Oct. 27 and 28. The best-of-seven series then moves to Arlington, Texas, for as many as three games before returning to San Francisco for the final two games, if necessary, on Nov. 3 and 4.
The Rangers ousted the defending champion New York Yankees after recording their first playoff series win against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Giants knocked off Atlanta and then two days ago eliminated the Philadelphia Phillies, who reached the World Series the past two years.
“The two best teams are playing,” Texas manager Ron Washington told reporters yesterday. “That’s the way it should be.”
The Phillies entered the postseason as favorites among Las Vegas oddsmakers ahead of the Yankees. The Giants were fourth choice at 8-1, followed by the Rangers at 10-1.
“We like our odds, even though not many do,” Giants closer Brian Wilson told reporters. “It’s time to start believing.”
World Series broadcaster Fox wanted a repeat of last year’s matchup between the Yankees and Phillies, who play in the largest and fourth-biggest U.S. media markets, said Rick Gentile, a former executive producer and senior vice president at CBS Sports who teaches sports management at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.
The six-game 2009 World Series averaged 19.4 million viewers, 39 percent more than the previous year and the most in five years, Fox Sports said. That helped the News Corp. unit sell 90 percent of its commercial spots for this year’s World Series before the lineup was known, at rates 8 percent higher than last year.
“A badly rated series is ammunition for an advertiser to say they’ll pay less,” Gentile said in a telephone interview. “Next year, the advertisers will come to the table and say, ‘We’re not giving you an increase. We got killed last year.’”
The Game 6 win for Texas over the Yankees was the most- watched game of the major league season with 11.9 million viewers, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. said.
“America probably wanted to see Yankees and the Phillies, but it’s time for some new blood,” Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. “It’ll be an exciting series.”
Following the trend of a season in which runs and hits per game were at their lowest in 18 years, Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee may be the deciding element in the World Series, Kornegay said. The Texas left-hander is 7-0 with a 1.26 earned run average in eight career postseason starts.
“He’s the one with the X-factor,” Kornegay said. “He’s been so dominant.”
Lee, who has a 1.13 ERA and a 3-0 career record against San Francisco, will start the opening game against two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
Top Pitching Staff
The Giants led the majors with a 3.36 ERA during the regular season and have improved on that in the postseason, with a 2.47 ERA in 10 games.
“Their pitching is good,” said Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, who has five postseason home runs. “All those National League teams have good defense and good pitching.”
While the Rangers have a 2.76 postseason ERA, they’ve also blasted 17 home runs in 11 games. The Yankees were second among baseball’s playoff teams with 10 homers.
The Giants have six postseason homers and have scored 30 runs to 59 for Texas.
Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Bengie Molina all have at least two homers in the postseason for the Rangers. Cody Ross, who was picked up off waivers by San Francisco during the season, is the lone’ Giants player with more than one postseason home run. His four playoff homers are twice as many as the rest of the team.
“The Rangers dominated the Yankees with their hitting,” Kornegay said. “If they can do that again, it’ll be tough for the Giants.”
The Rangers’ seven postseason wins have come by an average of 5.6 runs. The Giants’ winning margin is 1.3, with six of seven playoff games decided by one run.
“You get a lot of people -- family, friends -- telling us we give them a heart attack with these games,” Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. “I think we’ve been prepared for these games. We’ve had them all year.”