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WS Game 1: Baseball Experts, Verlander Crushed by Giants

2012WSJust about everyone knew this was not supposed to happen. Superstar media baseball talking heads and various pompous MLB prognosticators agreed they pretty much had World Series Game 1 figured out and, frankly, it was time to talk about other things.

It was simple. The overpowering Detroit Tigers led by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and the best pitcher on the planet Justin Verlander would crush the Giants and soft-throwing starter Barry Zito. That was a given. So let's move on and talk about Game 2 and decide how the Tigers would also win that one.

That memo went out early Tuesday. Not receiving it were the following baseball players: Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, starter Barry Zito, second baseman Marco Scutaro, and left fielder Gregor Blanco.

Also apparently misplacing that particular memo were Tigers' starter Justin Verlander, the Tigers bullpen, AL batting champ Miguel Cabrera, and human recreational vehicle Prince Fielder.

The Giants took Verlander and the Tigers down to the tune of 8-3 and absolutely dominated them. But that's not nearly the whole story.

Justin Verlander only lasted four innings, throwing 98 pitches and giving up 5 earned runs. His World Series ERA stands at 11.25. Verlander spent what little time he had on the mound almost exclusively throwing either 94-mph fastballs or 84 MPH off-speed/curve ball pitches in a confused approach that suggested little planning was wasted on this "done deal" game by the Tigers.

As John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, Verlander faced 19 batters of whom 7 reached base. Fully 22 of Verlander's 98 pitches were delivered to Angel Pagan. He was so hittable that Barry Zito slapped an opposite field two-out single off Verlander in the 4th inning that scored first baseman Brandon Belt, who Verlander had walked to lead off the inning.

PabloBut nothing approaches Pablo Sandoval's earth-shattering, record tying three home run spectacular that turned Game 1 into a shutdown-slapdown of the mighty Tigers. Understand these dingers were hit at AT&T Park, a pitchers' palace that brings power hitters to their knees mewling like frightened kittens.

Sandoval's first home run came off a Verlander 95-mph fastball that soared 420 feet over the wall in straight away center. His second smash came with two outs and Scutaro on base. As Sandoval walked up to home plate for that at-bat Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones came out to the mound to talk to Verlander.

Sitting in our field box between the visiting dugout and the backstop screen, we saw Verlander being visibly annoyed that Jones dared to come out to his mound in the middle of his game. We also saw that, as Jones walked back to the Tigers dugout, he had a smarmy smirk on his face. That look said, "we're only down 2-0 and I saw the memo that said we were going to destroy the Giants, so all is well".

The very first pitch to Sandoval, another 95-mph fastball down and off the plate, was sent by Pablo some 335 feet to the opposite field over the left field fence for a two-run homer. Oh to see the formerly-smirking Jeff Jones in the dugout at that moment.

Of course history will record that Sandoval hit his third and record-tying home run off the unfortunately-name Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque. That puppy went 404 feet and capped a magnificent moment in Sandoval's career. In his last at-bat Sandoval merely singled and fans in our section immediately called for him to be replaced by Joaquin Arias.

Benched during the 2010 World Series for being overweight, Pablo Sandoval had two significant injuries the past several years with broken bones in each hand. His struggles to find his hitting mojo during the 2012 season reflect Sandoval's attempts to once again be the pure hitter he was in the minors, in 2009, and in 2011.

Pablo has found that mojo. His combined 2012 postseason numbers against Cincinnati, St. Louis and now the Tigers are staggering: a .370 AVG, 1.164 OPS, 6 HR, 4 2B, 13 RBI, and 9 RS.

In many ways Barry Zito is the real superstar of the Giants 2012 postseason. So far he's topped his 15-8 regular season record with the following postseason performance: 2-0, 1.69 ERA, 16 IP, 13 SO. Without Zito's incredible shutdown of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS, there is no three home run game for Pablo Sandoval in Game 1 of the World Series.

Now I certainly hope everyone received the new memo about WS Game 2 and how Giants' starter Madison Bumgarner is tired and has pitching mechanics problems and shouldn't be any problem for Tiger hitters.
                        

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