After a very long weekend without baseball, the World Series is set and Kauffman Stadium will be ready to rock tonight when the San Francisco Giants come to town to take on the miracle Kansas City Royals.
As everyone would expect, game one features both teams' aces going against each other after plenty of rest for both. Both James Shields and Madison Bumgarner started their teams' wildcard game, which resulted in wins.
Shields has started three of his team's eight games leading up to the World Series, while Bumgarner has thrown four of his team's ten playoff games. In those seven starts between the two, the Royals and Giants have gone 6-1 so something will have to give on Tuesday night when two of the game's best go at it.
But while Bumgarner has been basically shutdown (five earned runs in nearly 32 innings pitched), Shields has been fortunate to have gotten some great run support from an offense that isn't necessarily stocked full of fire power. Shields has pitched all right, but you can really only point to one start where he pitched well.
Two of his three starts have resulted in just five innings, and a combined eight runs. Against the LA Angels, however, he posted a quality start with six innings and two runs allowed. Both of those runs were scored via a solo home run though. And he may not be so fortunate this time around.
Shields to benefit from rest?
As he's aged and logged big inning totals year after year (he run up another 232 this season), Shields has gradually lost some zip on his fastball, which has affected his changeup's effectiveness.
There's a chance that ten days off between starts this time around will allow him to reach back a little more on that fastball, but he's shown a propensity to tire after the first time through the lineup. Shields' greatest ability as a pitcher is to battle and outthink his opponent. But that's what San Francisco does so well with their core three offensive players, Pence, Posey, and Sandoval. Overall, it appears to be a tough matchup for Shields, who will need to throw pretty spotless baseball with Bumgarner going on the other side.
Bumgarner's ability to go deep into games is a great omen for the Giants in game one of what should be a bullpen-heavy series.
I fully expect Bumgarner to out-pitch Shields on the road this year, especially once you consider his road ERA was nearly half his home mark this season (2.22 to 4.03). But if he's able to throw eight or nine innings and the Giants can get ahead in the bullpen usage right off the bat, it will set them up nicely for a series win. Couple that with the momentum KC brings into this game and this is one of the more crucial game one's you'll see.
I'll take the experienced team that plays so well on the road with their ace behind them. Giants to win game one.