Starting pitching: Giants. This is a tiny edge, if it's one at all. The emergence of Colby Lewis has helped the Cliff Lee-led Rangers rotation compile a 2.37 ERA in 11 playoff games, slightly better than the Giants' 2.47. Jonathan Sanchez looks tired, but the San Francisco rotation is deeper and Tim Lincecum could offset the brilliance of Lee, who hasn't been as effective as you'd think against players in the Giants' lineup. Cody Ross hit a grand slam in one of his two at-bats against Lee, and the San Francisco roster is hitting .270 against him. Madison Bumgarner could be a key.
Relief pitching: Giants. The Rangers are missing a key piece in sidelined setup man Frank Francisco, forcing Ron Washington to lean on Darren Oliver and Darren O'Day, both of whom seem low on gas. Closer Neftali Feliz has needed Washington's on-mound pep talks to get through his assignments, and because of the Rangers' lopsided wins, he has yet to have a save situation. There's nothing flashy about the Giants bullpen, but it gets the job done. Santiago Casilla can blow away hitters. Brian Wilson never has given up a hit to anyone on the Texas roster (0-for-19, one walk). He's 5-for-5 in saves in the postseason.
Hitting: Rangers. Nothing has been bigger this postseason than Texas' run production. The Rangers have been the only team consistently hitting, averaging 5.4 runs and hitting 17 home runs, 11 more than the Giants, who average 3.0 runs. The Rangers are hitting .284 with men in scoring position — a huge figure for October — compared with the Giants' .206 mark. Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler have been huge for Texas, and the only one struggling is platoon right fielder Jeff Francoeur (3-for-18, one RBI). Take away the red-hot Ross, and the Giants would have made no noise at the plate. He's their only regular with a postseason slugging percentage higher than .429; the Rangers have five.
Fielding: Rangers. The difference is the left side of Texas' infield, which gets Gold Glove play from Elvis Andrus and Michael Young. The outfield is excellent as well, with Hamilton back in center after spending time in left when the Rangers forced Julio Borbon into the leadoff spot. The Giants play with no margin for mistakes and sometimes make them.
Bench: Giants. Jorge Cantu, hitless in the postseason, has been a disappointment for the Rangers, who battled several other contenders to pry him away from the Marlins. The Giants will have three on the bench from the group of Juan Uribe, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres, and those guys could win games, as Uribe did in Game 6 of the NLCS. Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz play roles on a roster filled with specialty players.
Manager: Rangers. Nothing against Bruce Bochy, but Ron Washington is one of October's top storylines for his setting the right tone and handling individual players, helping them be calm under pressure and confident in their abilities. The Rangers played a deciding Game 5 against the Rays with reckless abandon, showing no fear. Washington gets great backup from bench coach Jackie Moore (a member of the baseball Magi) and pitching coach Mike Maddux. Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti was traded by the Rangers when he was 19 in a deal for 34-year-old Sparky Lyle.
Gut read: The series hinges on one question — can San Francisco pitchers keep games close until the late innings? The Giants' seven playoff wins have been by a total of nine runs, including six one-run games. They held the Braves and Phillies to a .159 average with men in scoring position and will take as much confidence into Game 1 as Texas' streaking hitters. Things could unravel fast if Lincecum fails to set the tone in the opener, but odds are he will.
Pick: Giants in seven.