Tony: What's that smell?
Tony: You didn't.
Aaron: Wash? No, I didn't. Well, not my shirts at least.
Tony: There's a laundromat right down the road.
Aaron: No, it's a good luck thing for the Tigers.
Tony: Right, 'cause that playoff beard worked so well for your Red Wings during hockey season.
Aaron: Just as well as it did for your Penguins. But let's talk about a sport that's actually playing right now.
Tony: Fair enough. I admire your loyalty to your team, but you really think the Tigers got a chance to win this?
Aaron: I do. I think between my unwashed Tigers shirts that I've worn every game of the playoffs and the Taco Bell I eat the day before before each game Justin Verlander pitches, I think superstition alone will carry us to the title. Well, that and the Tigers' starting pitching and the top five of the Tigers' starting lineup.
Tony: Verlander I'll give you. Dude's a beast. But top to bottom you can't possibly think they have a better staff than the Giants. Cain, Lincecum, Zito, Vogelsong. Plus the Giants' bullpen is far, far superior. If a game is tied in the ninth, you really feel confident the Tigers can pull it out?
Aaron: Here's the deal, the Tigers starting staff is better than the Giants. Certainly in the postseason it has been. In the ALCS, all Detroit's starting pitching did was post an alarming 0.66 ERA, which is the second-lowest ERA ever in a seven-game series. Verlander is just filthy and the Giants will get a heavy dose of him, too, since he'll likely pitch Game 1 and 5 of the series and maybe some relief work in Game 7. Outside of that, you have Max Scherzer, second in the American League in strikeouts behind Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez, who has pitched his way into a lucrative contract come the offseason. Lincecum? Really. He hasn't been the pitcher he was a few years ago in quite awhile. He's almost had a Dontrelle Willis-like drop off. Barry Zito hasn't been relevant since he pitched in Oakland and Cain will only pitch maybe once: Game 4 and possibly Game 7. Madison Baumgardner and Vogelsong are probably a wash with Fister and Sanchez. But my money is on the best pitcher on the planet winning three games, if it even goes seven games.
Tony: You didn't talk about that terrible bullpen, though.
Aaron: Do we have to?
Tony: Yes ... cough ... Valverde ... cough ...
Aaron: Well, to me, this is advantage Giants. It's scary to think what this bullpen would be like if Brian Wilson wasn't injured. Instead we get to look at a bunch of bearded look-a-likes, and I do fear the beard.
What the Giants won't be doing is fearing the Tigers in the eighth and ninth innings. The back end of the Tigers' pen has been brutal. Joaquin Benoit was solid for about four months of the season and has been terrible since. He actually led the majors in most home runs allowed among relievers at 14. He's the set up man and in the last 75 days, he's taken that to mean setting up the other team for success.
Then you have to talk about Jose "Papa Grande" Valverde, or as I like to call him: Velveeta, because he likes to melt down in the ninth inning. I've already shared in this column space in previous weeks my disdain for him. Manager Jim Leyland said Monday that Velveeta will make another appearance in a ninth inning this postseason, depending on the matchup. I think that means if the Giants have less than one lefthander coming up in the ninth, we're seeing Velveeta. If it's two or more lefthanders, it's (Phil) Coke and a smile. He was money in the ALCS, unlike the cheese man. The rest of the bullpen is fine, depending on the day.
Tony: Do you just ignore facts? You only got Verlander for two starts, and maybe a possible Game 7 relief appearance. You say Zito hasn't been relevant since Oakland? Tell that to the 47,000 St. Louis fans that saw him shut down the Cardinals with the champagne on ice in the locker room. And Lincecum, I'll agree the Freak has not been as freakish this year and at times has just looked like a long haired goober. However, he has the potential to go out and win a game by himself any time he steps on the mound.
Aaron: I see where you're coming from. You're wrong. But I see where you're coming from. But let's look at hitting. Don't even try to tell me the Giants lineup compares to Detroit. Watch out, Detroit, Marco Scutaro is coming to town.
Tony: The Tigers have had five days off before Game 1. I don't care what simulations you do in practice. The timing's going to be off and it might take a game or two to get back the rhythm the Tigers had against the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Giants hitters that are hot, can stay hot. Pablo Sandoval has had an excellent postseason. But perhaps most telling thing is the Giants have accomplished everything they have without their two best hitters being factors. If Buster Posey and Hunter Pence start swinging the bats like they're capable of, the Tigers have no shot to slow them down. The Tigers are no different than the Rangers two years ago. A powerful lineup, one dominant pitcher and a bunch of "solid" guys. How'd that turn out? Giants fared pretty well I believe. Yes, that's right. This group has won a World Series. They've been there and done that.
Aaron: That's the biggest X-factor for me. I'm very concerned about that. The Tigers had a week off in 2006 thanks to a sweep of the A's in the ALCS and then the pitchers forgot how to field in the span of a week and the team looked rusty. Jim Leyland coached the team then and has made adjustments to their schedule to prep for this series as well. I think getting out of a rhythm is a bad thing, but for someone like Prince Fielder, the break may allow him to hit the ball more like he was all season and less like he was in the postseason thus far. I don't care who the Giants throw out there, there's no comparison to what Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera brings to the table with a robust Fielder behind him. Then you have a Delmon Young who seems to elevate his game in the postseason (has the last two years with the Tigers, anyway), and that's a big three you can't pitch around. If the Tigers are able to show no cobwebs on the bats, this could be a quick series. I can appreciate a been there, done that attitude, but what I like most about the Tigers is what the Giants had this going for them in 2010: been there, haven't done that. There's something to be said for hunger for a title.
Tony: So what's your prediction? I say Giants in six. Fear the beards, Aaron. Fear the beards.
Aaron: I will fear the beards, Tony. And the Tigers bullpen. But the Giants will be wise to fear the reigning MVP and Cy Young (Verlander), this year's MVP (Cabrera) and a whole mess of Korte Karma. It may not smell the greatest, but if it gets the job done, I don't care. The Tigers in six.
Aaron Korte and Tony Maluso are sports writers for Advertiser-Tribune. They can be reached at akorte(at)advertiser-tribune.com and tmaluso(at)advertiser-tribune.com, respectively.