Philadelphia, PA – We've heard ad nauseam leading up to this World Series how San Francisco's Barry Zito wasn't on the team's postseason roster when the Giants captured their title in 2010.
But, he wasn't the only Giants player who was persona non grata on that team. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was benched for most of that postseason and appeared in just one World Series contest.
What a difference a couple of years makes, huh?
On Wednesday, Sandoval became just the third player to homer three times in a World Series game, while Zito pitched 5 2/3 solid innings, helping San Francisco to an 8-3 win over Detroit in Game 1.
Just like in 2010 when the Giants roughed up Texas' Cliff Lee in Game 1, San Francisco took the wind away from Detroit's seemingly invincible ace, Justin Verlander, knocking him around for five runs and six hits, including two of Sandoval's home runs.
The Kung Fu Panda, who also had a bases clearing triple against Verlander in the All-Star Game back in July, joined Babe Ruth, who did it twice, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to leave the yard three times in a World Series contest when he sent an Al Alburquerque offering over the wall in the fifth.
Sandoval finished with four hits and is batting .370 this postseason, a far cry from the .176 he hit in six games back in 2010. he hit only 12 homers in the regular season but already has six in 13 postseason games this October.
While Sandoval is a two-time All-Star and generally regarded as one of the better hitters in baseball, Zito's resurgence has been nothing short of remarkable.
Long maligned in San Francisco since agreeing to a seven-year, $126 million deal before the start of the 2007 campaign, Zito has been, to put it kindly, a gigantic bust for San Francisco. But, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner had by far his best season for the Giants this past year, winning 15 regular season games and now two more here in the postseason.
In fact, San Francisco has now won its last 14 games with Zito on the hill.
It was Zito, of course, who started the Giants' remarkable NLCS run with a 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Arguably the worst free agent signing ever, Zito is now the driving force behind what could be the Giants' second world title in three years and he's become a better option for manager Bruce Bochy than two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
You can't predict baseball, I tell ya.
Speaking of comebacks, Lincecum relieved Zito in the sixth and struck out five over 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He's pitched 10 2/3 innings out of the bullpen this postseason and has allowed just one run. Of course, he was banged around in his lone playoff start, continuing a trend that saw him lose 15 regular season games, while throwing to a 5.18 ERA.
But, he's been lights out for Bochy out of the pen in October.
Much has been made the past day or so about disgraced juice head Melky Cabrera being left off the Giants postseason roster. Given the redemption of both Sandoval and Zito, and even Lincecum to a lesser extent, does this mean Cabrera will be a hero for the Giants the next time they reach the postseason?
Ehhh, probably not.
VERLANDER OUT OF GAS?
Lost in Sandoval's big night and the Zito hoopla is a question that nobody in Detroit wants to hear.
Is Verlander out of gas?
Verlander admitted that he was close to running on fumes after his ALCS start versus the New York Yankees. Even though he only gave up one run and three hits in 8 1/3 innings of that one, he was by his own admission, hittable. Verlander said he had maybe two or three more starts left in him after that one.
He may have been off by a start or two.
Perhaps the seven day lay off was too much, but maybe the nearly 265 innings he's thrown this year have finally taken their toll.
If it's the latter there are a whole lot of people who'd want a mulligan for their World Series predictions.
HISTORY NOT IN TIGERS' FAVOR
We've already been beaten over the head by the fact that no team entering the World Series off a sweep has ever won against a team coming in off of a seven- game series.
Well here's another note that doesn't seem to bode well for Detroit.
Teams that have clinched their pennant at home and don't have home field advantage in that time are 0-8 in their World Series appearances.
And here's another, eight of the last nine and 13 of the past 15 Game 1 losers have gone on to lose the World Series.
LOOKING AHEAD TO GAME 2
The Tigers will try to get back in the series on Thursday behind California native Doug Fister, who grew up as a Giants fan.
"Growing up, don't tell anybody, I was a Giants fan, and being able to come to a couple games when I was little, it's always been a dream and a goal for me, and now it's happening," Fister said. "It's definitely special being able to come into the ballpark and play in a World Series is something that obviously is a moment that will never be forgotten. It holds a little bit more special place in my heart, I would say, but it doesn't change what we do on the field."
Fister has been dominant through his first two postseason starts, but has nothing to show for it, as he has yet to receive a decision despite allowing just two runs in 13 1/3 frames.
Over his last four playoff starts dating back to last season, Fister has pitched to a 1.75 ERA, allowing two or runs or less in each of them.
Opposing him will be struggling left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who has pitched to a 11.25 ERA this postseason for the Giants, but hasn't appeared in a game since Oct. 14. A 16-game winner during the regular season Bumgarner has lost both of his playoff starts and has looked bad doing so, surrendering 10 runs in only eight innings.
"I feel good about Madison," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's had a great year. He's done a great job for us since he's been up here, including postseason. This is a small sample on a couple hiccups he had earlier, and I think he's getting some much-needed rest and some time to work on making a couple adjustments in his delivery.
"Sometimes you get out of sync and it's better off taking a little bit of time and trying to sort that out, which he's done. So I look forward to watching him (on Thursday)."