Pablo Sandoval emerged as a hero for the San Francisco Giants in their 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series. While Sandoval’s standout offensive performance drove home their victory, it will be the Giants’ defensive play that will earn them a commanding lead in the World Series.
Barry Zito’s starting performance in Game 1 set a defensive standard for the Giants. In just over five innings, Zito allowed only six hits and just a single run. Tim Lincecum relieved Zito, accruing another five strikeouts for the Giants.
Heading into Game 2, Madison Bumgarner is the starting pitcher. Bumgarner’s performance is the biggest wild card for the Giants, though.
Bumgarner’s postseason performance has been deplorable. His most recent start was in Game 1 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was pulled before the fourth inning for allowing a total of six runs.
The Giants are taking a big risk by giving Bumgarner the nod. If he can’t put his earlier playoff troubles behind him, the Giants could surrender the opportunity to take a 2-0 lead on the road to Detroit.
The Tigers finished the regular season as one of the league’s most offensively gifted teams. They ranked 11th in the MLB for most runs and third for best on-base percentage. A solid defense beyond pitching is crucial in keeping the Tigers’ scorers at bay.
Brandon Belt’s play at first base will continue to be vital. After all, the first base position is crucial to cutting off the Tigers’ scoring early on. In 139 games played, Belt has a fielding percentage of .992.
Catcher Buster Posey’s performance shouldn’t be overlooked. Posey was a standout defensive player in Game 1. In the fourth inning, Posey tagged out Delmon Young at home and had the wherewithal to get the ball to short stop Brandon Crawford to create the double play.
That’s something all the Giants players, especially infielders, are going to have to keep an eye out for. Double plays like the one Posey created in the fourth inning of Game 1 cut off the Tigers’ momentum—something that will prove to be particularly important throughout the World Series.
San Francisco’s defensive play was just as important to their Game 1 win as Sandoval’s triplet of home runs. If it wasn’t for their sound play in the field, the Tigers could have believably scored just as many runs.
If they abandon the defensive prowess we saw in Game 1, the Giants may not be able to hang on to their series lead for long. Solid defense from the Giants will almost certainly lead to them taking a commanding lead over the series in Game 2 and for the remainder of the World Series.