By: Jamie Samuelsen
If you watch ESPN, you’ve seen the promos for the “30-for30” film series. They all start the same way. “What if I told you?” That question leads to stories of triumph, tragedy or absurdity. Or all of the above.
Game 1 of the 2012 World Series could fit well under those parameters. The Giants beat the Tigers 8-3 but the final score was really a footnote to a night of bizarre occurrences.
What if I told you…
– The best pitcher in baseball (Justin Verlander) would allow 10 hits and 2 earned runs to the first 87 hitters he faced in the postseason, and then would allow five hits and four earned runs to the first 13 hitters he’d face in Game 1.
– Verlander would throw 38 pitches in the third inning, the most pitches that he’d throw in an inning all season.
– Verlander would exit after four innings – the earliest he’d leave a game that wasn’t shortened by rain in two years.
– Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco would make not one, but two diving catches in almost the exact same spot to rob Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder of rally-continuing hits.
– Barry Zito, who had FOUR hits all season long, would single off of Verlander to drive home a run in the fourth.
– Pablo Sandoval (aka Kung Fu Panda) who hit 12 homers during the year would match Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth as the only men in the history of baseball to hit three homers in one World Series game.
– Sandoval’s first homer off Verlander in the first would come on an 0-2 pitch.
– The Giants third inning rally would be caused by a harmless bouncer off the bat of Angel Pagan that struck the third base bag, caromed past Cabrera and went for a double for Pagan.
– The Tigers would give up more runs in one game of the World Series (8) than they gave up in the entire ALCS against the Yankees (6).
– The 5-9 hitters in the San Francisco lineup would go 1-for-19 with one RBI. And that one hit and one RBI would come from Zito. And the Giants would still win in a romp.
Would you believe any of that? Sure – a couple of those things could happen. If someone had told you that before the game, you might have picked one or two. But all of them happening? In the same game? Preposterous.
But preposterous has been the Giants order of business in this postseason and all of a sudden makes things very scary for the Tigers. San Francisco trailed the Reds 2-0 after losing the first two games of the NLDS at AT&T Park. They won three in a row to advance. They trailed the Cards 3-1 in the NLCS, and turned the comeback trick again. Most thought that the Verlander-Zito match-up was rather one-sided. Turns out that it was one-sided, though it wasn’t the side we expected. Zito delivered 5 2/3rds innings of six-hit, one-run baseball. That doesn’t sound like much, but strangely it was better than Verlander.
So if you’re the Tigers, there are two ways to look at it. Game 1 was a disaster – it can’t get worse than that. Throw it away. And start fresh Thursday. The second way to look at it is that the Giants are on a roll and if Verlander can’t slow them down, who can? The Tigers hope it’s Doug Fister who faces the second biggest start of his Tigers career (the biggest was Game 5 against the Yankees last year which he won). If Fister wins, the Tigers head back to Detroit all tied up at one and all is well. If he falters, then the Tigers are in a bit of a panic mode as they fly back across the country.
It is only one game, and that bears mentioning. But it’s also a Verlander start and those are assumed wins with this team. JV had won his previous seven starts in the regular season and playoffs. That streak is over. But the series is not. It just makes Game 2 a lot bigger than anyone expected.