Justin Verlander, who?
That's what the San Francisco Giants said when they hung five runs on the Detroit Tigers ace in the first four innings of Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night, eventually winning the contest 8-3.
How important is the first game? Check out what ESPN Stats & Info had to say:
The importance of Game 1-- Teams that went up 1-0 in a World Series have gone on to win the World Series 62% of the time— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2012
Gregor Blanco's diving grabs in left field:
Barry Zito's solid pitching performance, or just plain luck:
The Giants refused to be denied. Entering the game, Verlander's presence on the bump made a Tigers victory almost a foregone conclusion. He had dominated all postseason, allowing just two runs in three previous starts.
Rather than be intimidated, the Giants came out hacking. When Verlander made a mistake on an 0-2 count with a high fastball in the first inning, Sandoval made him pay, as you saw earlier. To add to that, check out this stat from Orange County Register reporter Jeff Fletcher:
Justin Verlander had allowed 4 homers on 0-2 counts ... in his career.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) October 25, 2012
Then, Marco Scutaro entered himself into the world of ESPN Stats & Info with his run-scoring single in the third inning, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead:
Marco Scutaro: 11-game hitting streak, tying Giants postseason record previously held by Irish Meusel (1921-22)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2012
Things didn't slow down from there, either, with Sandoval parking his second homer off Verlander, bringing Scutaro home in the process. For a guy with 12 home runs in the regular season, "Kung Fu Panda" was giving AT&T Park a performance for the ages, and he wasn't done.
With a 5-0 lead in the fourth frame, Sandoval made Al Alburquerque the victim of his third home run of the evening.
According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Sandoval's third, and final, blast put him alongside some incredible company:
Your complete list of men who hit 3 HR in a World Series game: Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols, Pablo Sandoval— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 25, 2012
Miguel Cabrera finally got the Tigers on the board with an RBI single in the sixth, but that didn't slow down the Giants train. Angel Pagain scored off a Scutaro single, and Buster Posey brought in Scutaro off an RBI single of his own—making the score 8-1 after the seventh.
Jhonny Peralta tried to get his team back in the game with a two-run shot to center field off George Kontos in the top of the ninth, but Kontos and Jeremy Affeldt were able to work out of the inning.
What's worse for the Tigers is how the runs were scored in the seventh frame. With the game seemingly out of reach, Jim Leyland took it as an opportunity to get Jose Valverde some confidence. Instead of an easy, relaxed outing, Valverde got pounded for four hits and two runs in 0.1 innings of work. Now, the Tigers are down 1-0 in the series, and they still don't have a closer to rely on.
On the other side, from Sandoval's trifecta to Blanco's Gold Glove-caliber play in the outfield, it was all good for the boys out west.
Who wins Game 2?
Zito was able to out-pitch Verlander—allowing one run in 5.2 innings—to earn his first World Series victory. Because he only throws in the low-to-mid-80s, Zito has to change the eye level of batters frequently, and he was able to do so on Wednesday.
Adding to the Giants' optimism was Tim Lincecum. After getting hit hard in his NLCS start against the Cardinals, the whacky right-hander struck out five batters in 2.1 scoreless innings of relief.
The Tigers have to be reeling after watching their ace get knocked around. On the other hand, the Giants have to feel like they could walk on water.
Detroit doesn't have much time to regroup with Game 2 on Thursday night. Doug Fister will take the mound for Leyland's squad, while Madison Bumgarner tries to show why Bruce Bochy decided to give him the ball for the Giants.