In a match up of former Cy Young winners, not many had given left hander Barry Zito or his San Francisco Giants against the great Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. But, despite coming into the game with a 0.74 ERA this post-season, it was Verlander who looked hittable and Zito who kept posting zeroes.
While Zito was dealing, he got help both his offense and his defense. The top of the San Francisco order consistently put together tough at bats and Marco Scutaro continued his hot hitting with a pair of RBI singles. The first of which followed Angel Pagan‘s chopper to third that clipped the bag and wound up as a two-out double. That play opened the door for a clutch 3-2 single by Scutaro and then Pablo Sandovalstepped in and clubbed the second of his three home runs on the day.
The final score will show a five-run spread, but that ball that Pagan hit should have been the final out of the inning. Instead, Verlander wound up allowing three runs in the frame and threw over 30 pitches in doing so. The Giants hitters battled Verlander all night and forced him out of the game after only four innings. He still threw 98 pitches on the game.
The series is obviously a long way from over after just one game and narratives that are formed in Game One rarely hold throughout the series. Yes, Detroit was a bit rusty. Well, Verlander was, anyway. Verlander spent the night just missing off the edges and the Giants, to their credit, refused to chase. But the Giants also played perhaps their best game of the post-season to date. Gregor Blanco saved a pair of hits with diving catches in left field, at least one of which likely would have scored a Tigers run.
Sandoval’s three home runs put him in elite company, as you already know, but this is a guy who hit all of a dozen homers during the regular season. Suddenly in October, Panda has already hit six out of the park.
The San Francisco pitching was outstanding behind Zito as well. Tim Lincecum, who was shuttled back to the bullpen after making one start in the NLCS, faced seven hitters in relief of Zito and struck out five of them. Between Lincecum’s outing and Detroit reliever Jose Valverde‘s two-run half inning, any shot at a Tigers comeback was thwarted quickly.
The Tigers were just a game over .500 when facing left handed starters in 2012 and soft-tossers like Zito are especially troublesome for Detroit’s lineup, for whatever reason. A fellow southpaw, Madison Bumgarner, will get the start in Thursday’s Game Two versus Detroit’s Doug Fister.