This was the game that the Giants were supposed to lose. This was the game that Justin Verlander — Really Good Pitcher(tm) — was supposed to dominate. Neither of those things happened. And it was freaking awesome.
Baseball is a really bizarre game sometimes. Even more so in the postseason, where you take the unpredictability of everyday baseball, punch in the God Mode cheat code, and ratchet up the craziness by a factor of 100. You never really know when the floodgates are going to open. Maybe it’s a bouncing infield ground ball from Angel Pagan that nicks a corner of the third base bag, slightly alters its course, and rolls into LF for a two-out double. The next thing you know the Giants tack on three runs and lead the game 4-0. Yeah, that’ll do the trick.
Bizarre. Weird. Odd. Take your pick, it fits.
Then you notice that Barry Zito is pitching a really good game. He’s mixing speeds and generating (mostly) weak contact. The fastball command is still spotty, but he’s throwing tons of sliders — Zito has thrown more sliders in 2012, by far, than ever before in his career — and working in the occasional curve. And he’s out-pitching Justin Verlander.
Strange. Frightening. Huh? Take your pick, it still fits.
And then Pablo Sandoval keeps hitting home runs: center field, left field, center field again. It doesn’t really matter where they pitch him, Sandoval is crushing everything.
Not so strange. Not so weird. Kind of expected.
And then you realize that with three home runs in a World Series game, Pablo Sandoval now joins the ranks of Babe Ruth (twice), Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols as the only players to accomplish such a feat.
Now we’re back to weird. Screwy. Fantastic, even.
When the dust settles, the Giants walk away from Game One as 8-3 winners. I’m still processing everything that happened, but winning the first game in the World Series at home is a fantastic way to start things. Now, we just need to win three more. The Giants got huge games from Pablo Sandoval, Barry Zito, and Tim Lincecum. All three contributed a ton to tonight’s win. Bruce Bochy gets a lot of credit for his use of Tim Lincecum in this postseason and tonight was no different — Lincecum was a force, striking out five batters over 2.1 scoreless innings of relief.
Now, onto the assorted post-game thoughts:
(1) What the Giants did well against Justin Verlander
Fouling off pitches. The entire team did a great job of working Verlander by fouling off a lot of pitches and driving up his pitch count. Verlander threw 97 pitches on the night and the Giants fouled off 27 of them. That’s a foul percentage — defined as fouls/swings — of 50.9 percent, third highest foul percentage of any Verlander start this year.
To give you a better idea, these are the top five starts this year from Verlander ranked by foul balls generated by every 10 swings.
Date Opp Score Foul/10 06/09/2012 @ CIN ND 3-2 5.5 10/16/2012 vs NYY W 2-1 5.1 10/24/2012 @ SF L 3-8 5.1 09/19/2012 vs OAK W 6-2 5.1 07/20/2012 vs CWS W 4-2 5.0
For every 10 swings the Giants took tonight, they fouled off 5.1 pitches. Pretty impressive. In Verlander’s 38-pitch 3rd inning, the Giants fouled off 10 pitches; in his 27-pitch 4th inning, the Giants fouled off 12 pitches. Or, to put things another way: Batters against Justin Verlander averaged 3.99 pitches per plate appearance this year; the Giants saw 5.16 P/PA tonight — the highest of any Verlander start in 2012.
(2) Pablo Sandoval finds his place in history
Go ahead and watch this several hundred times.
(3) Defense is when you catch and throw the ball properly
Earlier today in my SweetSpot blog piece, I noted that the Giants’ defense could be factor in this series. Tonight’s game helped to make me look smart in that regard.
The Giants did this:
And the Tigers did this:
If Delmon Young’s throw was a totally cool frat dude from the early 2000s in song format, it would be this, brah.