It’s easy to make the comparison between how the Giants beat Justin Verlander tonight and how they dismantled Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the 2010 World Series. But Lee never really looked like the kind of elite, top-five pitcher in baseball that had been advertised throughout the Rangers’ postseason run.
Verlander looked like Verlander from the start of this one. Angel Pagan saw six pitches and fouled three of them off, but he looked far more defensive than usual. The mighty Marco Scutaro grounded out to second. Seconds later (or so it seemed, anyway), Verlander had Pablo Sandoval right where he wanted him. 0-2 count. Time for a nice 95-mph fastball at the letters to punctuate another dominant inning!
Verlander is the antithesis of a guy like Madison Bumgarner, who has the same expression no matter what. What happens at the All-Star Game is supposed to stay in the All-Star Game, and Verlander was not expecting … that.
He certainly wasn’t ready for Sandoval’s second home run, an opposite field blast to left field on another 95-mph fastball. At this point, Verlander realized that AT&T Park is a strange place and it would be quite alright if he never returned again.
Then Al Alburquerque came in, and found out that 84-mph sliders aren’t a suitable antidote to panda venom, as Sandoval smashed yet another home run, this time to center.
Three home runs in one game. The only other players do that in a World Series game: Babe Ruth (twice), Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.
This, from the same guy who went 72 days without a home run. There was a 19-day DL stint mixed in there, but Sandoval’s power drought and general lack of production were quite worrisome through August and a good part of September, and then he finally went deep on Sept. 19 against the Rockies. Then he hit two more home runs the next day, and another one the next. That was it for Sandoval’s regular season HR output, as the Giants third baseman ended the regular season with 12.
This postseason, Sandoval has hit 6 home runs, meaning he has accounted for 10 homers over the last 37 days. Simply amazing, and proof that, when he’s on, the Panda is one of the most talented hitters in the game.
The whole team is hitting right now. They’ve outscored the Cardinals and Tigers 28-4 over the last four games. But even thought the mighty Scutaro went from hitting .500 in the NLCS to going 2-for-4 in Game 1 of the World Series, Sandoval’s 4-for-4, 3 HR performance was one they’ll be talking about for the next 100 years.
Barry Zito’s rally continues
I’ll let everyone else make the bazooka-vs-BB-gun comparisons between Zito and Verlander. Zito doesn’t throw fastballs that move at a rate higher than 85 mph. We get it. But regardless of what anyone thinks about that contract, even if these last two postseason starts haven’t won you over, Zito’s approach, persistence and even his arsenal will be appreciated by the masses for the rest of his San Francisco Giants career. There is a method to Zito’s madness, and it was on full display this week.
And he got a hit off Verlander that drove in Brandon Belt. At that point I fully thought I was hallucinating.
Zito seemed so happy after this one in his postgame interview with Ken Rosenthal. It was also the first time I’ve ever seen him talk about how great the fans at AT&T Park are when I actually believed him. I don’t blame him; the fans cheer when they win and they’re brutal when he loses. But I can’t come close to comprehending how he must feel after what he has gone through, to finally not just be loved in a one-night-stand sense, but appreciated.
Tim Lincecum, bullpen wizard
Lincecum came in with runners on first and second and changeupped Jhonny Peralta to death. In all, Lincecum proved Bruce Bochy right (yet again) with 2.1 innings of perfect relief that included 5 strikeouts. Why can’t Timmy look like a badass like this when he starts? I have no idea, but what he’s providing out of the pen is just as important right now.
Gregor Blanco’s the best defensive outfielder I’ve seen in a Giants uniform since Darren Lewis. And this game showed once again — time and time again — that defense matters.
Hasta luego, Valverde
It’s never a good sign when your (former) closer is seen crying in the dugout in the 7th inning. Jose Valverde took a liner to the back in BP according to MLB Network, and he may never pitch for Detroit again. Not the kind of bullpen dynamics you’re looking for in October … I guess that’s pretty obvious, though.
One last image before I head out…
It’s my wife’s birthday today, and she graciously (and loudly) spent it in the living room watching this game with me, clapping and whooping it up after Panda homers. We have a late dinner reservation to celebrate the occasion, so thanks to Delmon Young and @gidget (yet again) I have one more image to leave you with.