Slugging third baseman and Cy guy lead the way...not for Tigers: Griffin
The Tigers were considered the World Series favourites. The Tigers boasted the slugging third baseman that could carry the offence and the Cy Young starting pitcher on the mound for Game 1 of the World Series. The smart money knew the visitors were going to steal the first game and put the Giants in a hole, losing at home, again. But it didn't happen.
Yes, a third-baseman stepped up to be the star, but it was Pablo Sandoval. Sure a Cy Young starting pitcher was the winner, but it was Barry Zito. And, oh, what about the key second-baseman acquired at mid-season that was going to be a key. No, not Omar Infante for the Tigers, but Marco Scutaro for the Giants. It's a case of filling in the World Series blanks and the names in the lead after Game 1 all appear on the San Francisco roster.
The Tigers have to be concerned about Justin Verlander. He was the key to their being considered the betting favourite. He's the best. By eliminating the Yankees early Verlander was going to be able to pitch Games 1-4 and likely Game 7 on short rest. If Verlander could be counted on for two wins in those three starts, then the odds shifted dramatically to Motown. He still has a chance to win two of three but the confidence must be shaken.
Verlander was a rookie back in '06 when he lost his two Series starts. That was excusable and he talked about it the day before this year's Game 1 start. But his performance on Wednesday came with no excuses. He is now 0-3, with a 7.20 ERA in three World Series starts. In the first two rounds this year the '11 Cy Young and MVP winner was 3-0, 0.74 ERA. In post-season rounds other than the World Series he is 6-1.
As for Sandoval, I'm not sure what's more surprising, seeing Omar Vizquel pass Babe Ruth, Mel Ott and Harold Baines in September on the all-time hits list or watching Kung-Fu Panda join Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols with three homers in a World Series game.
Another cause for concern for the Tigers, as if they didn't have enough to worry about, is the awful display by Jose Valverde in a low-pressure, non-save situation. Manager Jim Leyland said the coaching staff was going to work with Verlander on mechanics towards maybe getting him back to the closer's role. There is no way in the next six games that Valverde sees the ninth inning when the Tigers have a lead. It looks like lefty Phil Coke is the guy and if I was a Tigers fan that weould concern me. Is he the real thing?
Losing the DH with the pitcher hitting at AT&T? Advantage Giants. Zito singled home a run, the fourth straight game a San Francisco pitcher has an RBI. Meanwhile Tigers left fielder Delmon Young, normally the DH, was good for two hits, but the nine-hole was 0-for-4.
But the Tigers still have a chance to even the series and steal one on the road heading home to Comerica Park for Game 3. The Tigers have Doug Fister starting Game 2, a post-season beast, while the Giants send to the hill the struggling Madison Bumgarner who started Game 1 vs. the Cardinals and did not fare well. His post-game comments re his own performance raised red flags for manager Bruce Bochy and he was passed over for Tim Lincecum in Game 4. Bumgarner was a breakout star in the 2010 World Series.
In any case, the Giants lefthander has not had a quality start since September 22. In his four starts since, he has pitched 17-2/3 innnings, allowing 18 runs (16 earned) on 24 hits, with five walks and 16 strikeouts. That's a 8.15 ERA. However, the good news is that Bumgarner has made one start against the Tigers, on Canada Day 2011, allowing a run in 7-1/3 innings with five hits, a walk and nine Ks.
And by the way, Jays' soutpaw Brett Cecil should study the performances of Barry Zito in the post-season. This is a lefthander that never throws harder than 86 mph, but pitches smart and stays a step ahead of the hitters with four pitches he can throw for strikes.
The Tigers aren't in a must-win situation yet, but they're getting close.