11:00 PM CDT, October 24, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Why even play three more games?
It's the Giants' world, and the rest of us just eat overpriced Cioppino and get fat on Ghirardelli chocolate.
It was impressive for Barry Zito to use his 85-mph fastballs to shut down the Cardinals in St. Louis in a must-win game. But it was preposterous for him to stick out his bat and get a run-scoring single off Justin Verlander.
Who does he think he is? Marco Scutaro?
Everything — and I mean everything — that the Giants do these days turns into gold. Why not a three-homer night from Pablo Sandoval in his first World Series game?
As all-powerful as they have been this October, the surprise in the Giants' 8-3 victory in Game 1 was that the Tigers' Jose Valverde could hold Sandoval to a single after he blasted two homers off Verlander and another off Al Alburquerque.
And why not one Cy Young winner taking the ball from another?
Tim Lincecum, middle man extraordinaire, checks his ego at the door when he puts on a jersey, his only thought being to help make magic happen. His 21/3 hitless innings continued the trend for the inventive Giants, who have more ways to beat you than the IRS form.
"It wasn't about me, and it's still not about me,'' Lincecum said about moving to the bullpen. "It's about the name on the front of the jersey.''
Against the Reds, the Giants somehow dug themselves out of a 2-0 hole while getting one hit in the first nine innings of Game 3. They then outscored the Cardinals 20-1 after falling behind three games to one in the NLCS, and in their latest magic trick made Verlander disappear after four innings in the World Series opener.
Sandoval homered both times he faced Verlander on Wednesday night, on a pair of 95-mph fastballs. The second came just one pitch after pitching coach Jeff Jones visited the mound, and that third-inning visit seemed as astonishing to the 2011 MVP/Cy Young winner as it was delightful for the crowd of 42,855 at AT&T Park.
The scene was pretty surreal, especially if you think back to Oct. 9 in Cincinnati, when they were one timely hit away from being swept in the first round of the playoffs.
In the first inning that day, Brandon Phillips, the Reds' leadoff man, was stealing second on a Ryan Vogelsong pitch that sailed past Buster Posey. Phillips just kept running around second base, and Posey made a quick, true throw to get him out at third. Barely.
The Reds would wind up with four hits, one walk but only one run in that inning. The Giants went on to win 2-1 in 10. In other words, if Posey doesn't make a strong throw there, Sandoval would not have had the chance to hit his three World Series homers. The Tigers would have been playing in Cincinnati or St. Louis, not alongside McCovey Cove.
"It probably did save us in that game,'' Bruce Bochy said of Posey's throw. "He gets to third base, we have one hit in nine innings, we probably lose that game. Buster kept his poise. … For us to do what we did, facing every night what we had to face, it takes great play, it takes a little luck, a big hit. All these things have to happen for us to do what we did as many times as we had to do it.''
The beat goes on.
Sandoval's drive to center field on a chest-high fastball from Verlander in the first inning loosened things up in a dugout that never seems tight, and then Angel Pagan started a two-out rally in the third with a lucky hit. His grounder hit third base and caromed past Miguel Cabrera, who couldn't have played the ball if he was Brooks Robinson.
Running hard, Pagan had himself an unlikely double. Marco Scutaro, MVP of the NLCS, drove him in to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. Then Verlander fell behind Sandoval 2-0, which brought Jones out of the dugout.
Maybe Verlander could have gathered himself without the visit. It certainly didn't help. He would be lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, the Tigers behind 5-0, and was left with his earliest Leyland hook since June, 2009.
Take that, big fellow.
The Tigers, who swept the Yankees in the ALCS, must be shellshocked. They should be encouraged by this — nothing is ever as easy as it looks in baseball.
The Giants certainly made it look easy against Verlander.
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