The San Francisco Giants have done this before. When they won the World Series in 2010, they took on a favored American League team that was fresh off ousting the Yankees and sending a renowned and feared ace to the mound in Game 1. Back in ’10, Frisco hit Cliff Lee hard and set themselves on the path to a decisive Series win over Texas. Now they’ve done it to Detroit and Justin Verlander, as the Giants grabbed an easy 8-3 win to open the World Series this time around.
Pablo Sandoval made history of his own, hitting three home runs in his first three at-bats. The big third baseman joins Albert Pujols, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth as the only players to do this in World Series play. Sandoval’s bombs might not have had the “three home runs on three swings” that Jackson delivered in a clinching game back in 1977, but for sheer quality of the at-bats, what Sandoval did was unmatched.
He took a high pitch from Verlander and somehow got on top of it to drive it out of the park. A good low sinker by Al Albuquerqe in the sixth inning was golfed into centerfield. For good measure, he laced a line drive single in his fourth at-bat, a ball that might have been his hardest hit of the night. Translation: This guy is really, really hot.
And the top of the San Fran order stayed hot. Angel Pagan delivered two hits in the leadoff spot and Marco Scutaro continued his roll, with a two-hit night. Buster Posey has been in an October slump (well, save for a rather significant grand slam that ensured the Giants would survive the Reds in the Division Series) and he got a couple hits.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland did the right thing in trying to get fallen closer Jose Valverde some work and see if he could his confidence back. It didn’t work. Valverde ended up charged with a couple more runs in what was already a 6-1 game and was the only Tiger reliever not to pitch reasonably well.
On the other side, we’ve seen what a weapon Tim Lincecum will be coming out of the pen. He got the biggest out of the night for the Giants, when Detroit had closed to 6-1 off of Barry Zito, had two on, two outs and a hot Jhonny Peralta at the plate. Later in the game, Peralta would hit a meaningless home run. In this key at-bat, Lincecum got him and the lead stayed comfortable.
So now that San Francisco has beaten Verlander, is this Series over? Or, more reasonably put, is it going to require something dramatic for Detroit to reverse its fortunes? I’m not ready to go there yet. Madison Bumgarner has really struggled in the postseason for San Fran thus far, and he’s the Game 2 starter. Doug Fister, who’s pitched very well, gets the ball for Detroit. Certainly you have to like the Tigers’ chances of tying this up.
But the importance of tonight can’t be understated for Detroit. I know they’re going home for three games after this, but the strength of the starting pitching shifts San Francisco’s direction in Games 3 & 4, when they send out Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong to face the back end of the Tiger rotation. Getting one win in those spots will be hard enough. Detroit can’t go home needing to both of San Francisco’s top two.
And whatever way you slice it, most formulas for predicting the Tigers would win the Series (including here) had Verlander beating Zito twice. If they can crawl back to even by the end of four games, that formula would be back on track for the Verlander-Zito rematch of Game 5, but it’s now a much tougher road for Leyland’s team.