Giants Hammer Royals in Game 1

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2012 World Series: Why the Giants Defense Will Be the X-Factor of the Series

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2012 World Series: Why the Giants Defense Will Be the X-Factor of the Series
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Gregor Blanco made two great diving catches in left field

The San Francisco Giants faced off against the Detroit Tigers in the first game of the 2012 World Series, and with Justin Verlander starting for the Tigers against Barry Zito, many so-called experts had all but given this first game to the Tigers. 

However, the Giants and Zito turned the tables on Verlander and the vaunted Detroit offense. It was the Giants offense, led by Pablo Sandoval's three home runs, which lit up the scoreboard. San Francisco won the opening game by a score of 8-3 (via news.yahoo.com).

In addition to the offensive uprising, the Giants are a much better defensive team than Detroit. We saw this very clearly in tonight's game, as Gregor Blanco made two diving catches to thwart potential Detroit scoring opportunities. 

Highlights from Game 1 in San Francisco.

Buster Posey made a big play when he fielded a swinging tapper right in front of the plate off the bat of Delmon Young. Posey tagged out Young, who failed to run, then threw to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who tagged out Prince Fielder for a double play.

For the Giants, defense is a strength, but the same cannot be said of the Tigers, especially in the National League ballpark. In the infield, Prince Fielder does not have a lot of range at first base. The left side of the Tigers infield, Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta also do not have good range.

Delmon Young looked very out of place in the outfield. Young is normally the Tigers DH, but manager Jim Leyland opted to start him in left.

Young's mobility is very poor and because of this, he plays very deep. We all saw the throw Young made directly into the ground, when he was trying to cut down Angel Pagan at the plate following a Marco Scutaro single.

Giants' third base coach Tim Flannery undoubtedly saw this too. You can bet San Francisco will try to run on Young whenever they get the chance.

On the flip side, the entire Giants defense played flawlessly and the pitching, which is a major part of any defense, was also outstanding.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Barry Zito kept the Detroit hitters off balance

Barry Zito threw 5.2 innings, kept the Tigers off balance and allowed only one run. Tim Lincecum followed Zito and set down seven hitters, striking out five in the process.

The national media had put Verlander and the Tigers' starting rotation, including Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer on a pedestal. They were said to be much stronger than the Giants starters. This, again, is the national media not giving the Giants their proper respect.

Over the last four playoff games, San Francisco's starters have thrown 26 innings and allowed only two runs. In addition to the starting rotation stepping up, the bullpen has been very solid.

Lincecum has given Bruce Bochy an additional weapon out of the pen. The Giants' top four relief pitchers—Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo—have thrown a total of 26 innings in the postseason. They have allowed only two runs and none since the Cincinnati series. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs

Meanwhile, the Tigers bullpen is one of their trouble spots. Closer Jose Valverde has lost his confidence in the postseason, and today's outing did nothing to restore it. Leyland will be very reluctant to use him in a close game.

The Tigers will be counting on Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel to close out games. Coke had an ERA of 3.57 and Dotel 4.00 in the regular season.

The Giants have taken the first game of the series, but there's still a lot of baseball left. It will be up to Madison Bumgarner to keep the momentum going. Detroit has a powerful offense, and if they get it going, they will be tough to beat.

Nevertheless, you have to like the way San Francisco played tonight, how they attacked Verlander and how the pitching stymied the Tigers bats. The series is far from over, but you have to like the Giants chances.

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