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5 Keys for the San Francisco Giants to Take Down Justin Verlander in Game 1

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

5 Keys for the San Francisco Giants to Take Down Justin Verlander in Game 1

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    While it took the Giants seven games to wrap things up against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, the Tigers swept the Yankees in four games and have been waiting for the World Series to start since last Thursday.

    As a result, the Giants had to throw ace Matt Cain in Game 7 of the NLCS and will turn to Barry Zito to match up against Tigers ace and arguably the best pitcher in the game in Justin Verlander.

    There's no question the Tigers have a significant advantage as a result, but there are a few keys to success for the Giants if they hope to take an early series lead.

    Here are my five keys for San Francisco to take down Verlander in Game 1.

Verlander May Not Be as Sharp After Long Layoff

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    The last time Verlander took the mound for the Tigers was Game 3 of the ALCS, back on October 16, and he allowed one run in 8.1 innings of work to earn the victory.

    In his career, Verlander is 6-5 with a 3.38 ERA when he gets more than six days of rest. His strikeout rate drops from 8.4 K/9 to 7.1 K/9 and his walk rate jumps from 2.7 BB/9 to 3.1 BB/9.

    Those numbers aren't overly troubling for the Tigers, but it is some small reason for optimism entering the game knowing that Verlander has not taken the mound for seven days.

Marco Scutaro Must Continue to Be a Catalyst

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    Fresh off of NLCS MVP honors, Marco Scutaro will again be key to the Giants' offensive success, as he has been an integral part of the lineup since being picked up at the deadline.

    After posting six multi-hit games and 14 total hits in the NLCS, the Giants will again need Scutaro to get things going offensively, especially if Angel Pagan continues to struggle in the leadoff spot.

    In 25 career at-bats against Verlander, Scutaro has five hits, including a double and a triple with one walk and nine strikeouts.

Buster Posey Must Provide Something Offensively

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    The frontrunner for NL MVP honors, Posey put together a fantastic regular season with a .336 BA, 24 HR, 103 RBI line that ended in the first batting title of his career.

    However, he has just eight hits this postseason, and he went just 4-for-26 with zero home runs and one RBI in the NLCS.

    Pablo Sandoval has picked up the slack, with two home runs and six RBI in the NLCS, but getting a breakout game from Posey would go a long way toward the Giants coming out on top and besting Verlander in Game 1.

Barry Zito Must Keep the Tigers off the Scoreboard

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    In order to have success offensively against the Verlander, the Giants have to work the count and hope he makes a mistake that they can do something with.

    If the Tigers strike early against Zito and the Giants are forced to play from behind, they'll be playing right into Verlander's hands, as he'll be able to do what he wants on the mound and won't have to try to be too fine.

    Zito needs to give the Giants at least five strong innings and keep the Tigers offense at bay if San Francisco is to have any hope of pulling out Game 1.

The Giants Need to Strike Early

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    It's no secret that Verlander generally gets stronger as the game goes on, and he tends to settle in and really dominate in the middle innings.

    During the regular season, he had a 4.09 ERA in the first inning and a 2.41 ERA the rest of the way. That has held true throughout his career, as he has a 4.19 ERA in 232 first innings over the course of his career.

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