Giants look to keep magic alive as they host Classic opener

Are there any obstacles too big for the Giants to hurdle?

The Giants captured their fifth National League pennant since moving to The City by winning a record six elimination games in the postseason. The team achieved the feat without their All-Star closer and top hitter from the first half of the season. The next test is facing the game’s best pitcher and the first batter to win the Triple Crown in 45 years when the Detroit Tigers travel to AT&T Park for Game 1 of the 2012 World Series tonight.

“You think you’ve seen it all in this game, but there’s always something else,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’ve seen a club with its back to the wall, but not as many times as we’ve had ours.”

Barry Zito will get the ball for the Giants in Game 1 after tossing 7²?³ innings of shutout baseball in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Friday. The 34-year-old left-hander faces a tough assignment going against reigning American League MVP Justin Verlander, who’s 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA in three postseason starts this year. Verlander is the only big-league pitcher to have ever won the Rookie of the Year Award (2006), a Cy Young award (2011) and an MVP award (2011) while having started an All-Star Game (2012).

“The only thing you can do is go out there and compete,” Bochy said.

Madison Bumgarner will throw for the Giants in Game 2 after he was skipped in Game 5 of the NLCS. Bumgarner is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts this year. The 23-year-old southpaw didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in either of his starts and his velocity was noticeably down in his Game 2 start against the Cardinals.

Bochy said he decided to start Bumgarner over Tim Lincecum because he thinks the former Cy Young Award winner will serve the club better coming out of the bullpen. Lincecum has allowed only one run in 8¹?³ innings of work as a reliever this postseason.

“He gives us another weapon there,” Bochy said. “He’s resilient. I can use him back-to-back days; I can use him three or four innings if necessary. If something happens, I can start him.”

Ryan Vogelsong will start Game 3 for the Giants, which means that he will likely start Game 7 at AT&T Park Nov. 1 if necessary. Matt Cain, who started Game 7 against the Cardinals, will take the hill in Game 4.

When asked why he didn’t flip the starts of two hurlers to line up Cain for Game 7, Bochy said he likes the way Vogelsong — the NLCS Game 2 and Game 6 winner — is pitching right now.

“He’s throwing the ball as well as anybody on the staff, so we just kept it in order,” he said.

Whoever takes the hill will face the formidable task of quieting a Tigers lineup that features a murderer’s row with Miguel Cabrera (Triple Crown winner), Prince Fielder (.313, 30 HR, 108 RBI) and Delmon Young (.267, 18 HR, 74 RBI).

Zito said Cabrera is particularly difficult to face because he can reach so many pitches.

“When he gets the barrel on something, his strength comes into play,” he said.

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