Listen, it’s not time to write the obituary for the Detroit Tigers. Yes, the San Francisco Giants looked like an unstoppable force last night against the best pitcher in baseball, but it’s just one game of four that they must win.
Wednesday night was an ominous start to be sure. What Pablo Sandoval was able to do by smashing 3 homers in his first 3 at-bats was not only historic, but also dumbfounding to unsuspecting Tiger fans. But it’s time to move on.
Game 2 will feature Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45 ERA) against Madison Bumgarner. Both pitchers had excellent seasons but finished out the year on different trajectories. Fister had a 2.34 ERA in 5 September starts and has a 1.35 ERA in 2 postseason appearances thus far. Bumgarner was lights out for 5 months but coughed up a 5.47 ERA in September and has been battered for 10 earned runs in 8 playoff innings, spanning 2 starts.
The Giants shut Bumgarner down after Game 1 of the NLCS to ‘fix’ him. Sound familiar Tiger fans? The Giants are hopeful that what ailed him was easier than the corrections the Tigers tried to instill upon Jose Valverde over the last week and a half.
Game 1 observations:
- Sandoval and Marco Scutaro looked invincible at the plate. Fister will have to find a way to neutralize their hot streaks so that the Tigers can stay in the game longer than an inning.
- I’ve never liked pandas, honestly. They are kind of rare and spooky. What Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval was able to do last night was also rare and spooky. So, by default, I officially don’t like Sandoval.
- Not only does Angel Pagan appear to be the kind of player that is really going to annoy the Tigers this series, but CTU has officially confirmed him as a member of Jack Bauer’s ‘watch list’. He just looks like he’s up to something unsavory.
- Speaking of looking unsavory, Hunter Pence looks like a certifiable madman. I’ve watched him closely throughout his career. It appears as though he’s left a few screws behind with each new city he calls home. Hold tight Hunter!
- When Justin Verlander struck Barry Zito out during his first at-bat with a changeup last night, Zito seemed incredulous. He was muttering things like “Wow”, and “a changeup?”. Verlander went all fastballs in that 2nd at-bat and Zito made him pay with an RBI single on a heater right down the tube. Zito got the last laugh in this one. They will meet again in Game 5.
- That San Francisco Giants crowd is sensational. I was shocked to discover on Twitter yesterday that the official Giants Twitter account has 333,000 followers. Detroit’s has 182,000. Fister will be tasked with not only shutting down the Giants offense, but also of finding a way to quiet the pandemonium in the stands.
- Jose Valverde will not pitch again as a Detroit Tiger unless the Tigers are getting blown out once more in this series by 5 or more runs. Valverde had 3 mostly good years as a member of the Tigers and it’s awfully sad and a damn shame to see him go out like this. My heart aches for the guy.
- On the bright side, Joaquin Benoit seemed to be outstanding last night. He hit 97 with his fastball, which is as hard as he’s thrown all year long, and his changeup was money. He will take on a prominent role in this series, and could very well be used in a closing situation against right-handers. Fixing Benoit was as critical as correcting Valverde’s woes. At least they got one of the two accomplished.
- All in all, the Tigers bats weren’t atrocious. They had 8 hits and were robbed on 2 others by Gregor Blanco. A few other sharply hit balls just weren’t able to find a hole in the defense.
- In 49 career regular season games covering parts of 2 seasons, Al Alburquerque has never allowed a home run. In 7 playoff games he has allowed 2, one last night and one in 2011.
- Rick Porcello looked sharp in his brief cameo. I expect him to be a substantial key in this series with the scrappy Giants forcing pitch counts up against the Tigers’ starters.
Today is a new day. As we just witnessed last night, in playoff baseball, anything goes. Tune in, expect nothing, and hope for the best.