Detroit Tigers fans likely thought they would have the upper hand Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series with Justin Verlander taking the hill against Barry Zito, his counterpart on the mound for the San Francisco Giants. Verlander, who was 7-0 with a 0.69 ERA dating back to the regular season, delivered dominant performances for Detroit against the Yankees and Athletics in the ALCS and ALDS.
But, as many have seen in the past, when October rolls around all bets are off. With Zito making his first World Series start, one would think he was the starter with World Series experience and not Verlander, as Zito dismantled Detroit’s fearsome lineup in 5.2 innings, allowing only one run on six hits. Zito earned a victory to stake San Francisco to a 1-0 series lead with the support of Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs en route to an 8-3 shellacking of the American League Champs.
Meanwhile, Verlander struggled from the get-go, giving up a solo home run to the Giants’ third baseman on a 1-2 fastball, and the Giants never looked back.
After neither side notched a run on the scoreboard in the second frame, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro drove in a run to put the Giants up 2-0, and Sandoval brought him around with a two-run shot to left-field for his second homer of the game which opened the lead to 4-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, after Zito threw another goose egg on the board in the top of the fourth, Zito supported his own cause with a single to left, scoring first baseman Brandon Belt for a 5-0 Giant lead. Zito’s run-scoring single proved enough to force Detroit manager Jim Leyland—managing in his third World Series—to make an earlier-than-expected trip to the bullpen, pulling Verlander from the game.
Sandoval then homered off reliever Al Alburquerque in the ensuing frame—his third of the game—for a 6-0 Giant lead at the end of five innings.
Detroit did not manage a response—and a feeble one at that—when Tiger third baseman Miguel Cabrera singled to center, bringing centerfielder Austin Jackson around to score and leave the score at 6-1. Two batters later, after Zito induced a lineout from first baseman Prince Fielder but then allowed a single to right fielder Delmon Young, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy—also managing in his third World Series—pulled Zito in favor of one of 2012’s most maligned pitchers, Tim Lincecum.
For the first time since 1983, with Lincecum replacing Zito, a Cy Young winner replaced another Cy Young winner in a World Series game, and Lincecum delivered arguably his best performance of the season, and certainly the most meaningful.
Over his 2.1 innings in the game, Lincecum retired all seven of the batters he faced and struck out five batters. Both Zito and Lincecum, although having dealt with issues regarding performance in recent years and 2012 especially, both gave vintage performances that brought back visions of their Cy Young days.
In the seventh, San Francisco blew the top off the Series’ inaugural contest with another RBI single from Scutaro, who later scored on a base hit off the bat of catcher Buster Posey. The score sat at 8-1 after seven, and left no doubts of a sure victory for the Giants.
Detroit made a little noise in the top of the ninth inning, when Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run home run to center field that bounced off the top of the wall over the outstretched glove of San Francisco outfielder Angel Pagan. But the two-run shot did little to increase the Giants’ chances at victory, and Jeremy Affeldt finished off the final two hitters to conclude the first game of the series.
The teams play Game 2 Thursday night in San Francisco, with Doug Fister slated to take the hill for the Tigers against Madison Bumgarner.