I doubt anybody predicted a Cardinals-Tigers World Series at the start of the season, although some may have picked St Louis as a NLCS winner due to their strong showing over the last several years. It’s therefore funny how it is the Cardinals who are being written off before the series begins tonight.
I’ve yet to see a prediction falling in the favour of the Cards. They may have more post-season experience than their rivals, but it is hard to escape the fact that Detroit are simply the better team; on offence, defence, starting pitching and relief. Does that make the result inevitable? Not quite.
The Cardinals went into the NLCS as underdogs and managed to fight their way past the Mets. There is an argument that says they may be tired after these exertions, especially compared to the well-rested Tigers, but I don’t think a winning team feels tired very often. While the 2006 Tigers have been a great story (almost a fairytale in fact), the Cards have battled through a lot of adversity as well and have found a way to come through. Any sports fan knows that the best team on paper doesn’t always win. Best of seven is still a relatively short series and with a little bit of luck at the right time, the Cardinals could certainly spring a surprise.
I don’t think it’s unfair right now to say that it would be a surprise if the Cardinals won. Sometimes a team just looks destined to achieve glory; it is written in the stars that this will be their year. You certainly get the feeling that may be the case with the Tigers. They dont have any stars but they are a team in the true sense of the word. If a starting pitcher has an off day, the bullpen and the batting lineup are capable of picking up the slack. When the starting pitchers perform to their potential, the opposition is going to be in trouble.
Perhaps the one thing the Cardinals do have in their favour is that they are the underdogs, or more specifically that the Tigers are the favourites. Having spent the season proving the doubters wrong, this mainly inexperienced team is now in a position where they are expected to win and that puts a different sort of pressure on their young shoulders. We saw during the regular season that this could have an effect. Having started the season so well, the Tigers started feeling the heat and let the Twins and the White Sox back into the AL Central race. They were able to halt that slide and regained their form when it mattered. All the Cardinals can do is try and put them under pressure. If the Tigers handle it then they will be worthy winners, but St Louis has enough about them to take advantage if they see any cracks appearing.
With the Tigers starting as heavy favourites and with neither team being one of the “glamour” organizations, there is a general feeling that this World Series may prove underwhelming. Personally I like the look of this match-up. I think it’s great that Justin Verlander and Anthony Reyes will be taking the mound tonight, grabbing the spotlight from the big-name pitchers and trying to make a name for themselves. If the Cardinals catch the Tigers cold and can even get a split from the opening two games in Detroit, it will be very interesting. If the Tigers when them both, St Louis will find it very difficult to stop them.
I’m going for a 4-2 series victory for the Tigers, in the hope that the Cardinals can edge a couple of tight games and really make Detroit earn their series victory.