After Game One loss, Tigers still have chance to come home in good shape

Justin Verlander lasted just four innings in Game One against the San Francisco Giants.

They’re talking about momentum and layoffs. They’re talking about too much rest and not being sharp. But the fact is the San Francisco Giants just whipped the Tigers in Game One of the 2012 World Series.

Pablo Sandoval did it three times, and that was really all the Giants needed to hold serve and take the opener of this Fall Classic.

Some might feel that the Giants got something more by beating Justin Verlander, the Tigers ace, the best pitcher in baseball. But the fact is, all four of the Detroit starters have been pitching like Verlander for a month. Any one of the quartet can lock down the Giants offense, and they aren’t intimidated just because a Panda swatted three home runs.

About those three homers. A tip of the cap to Sandoval for his aggressive hitting. His first homer was on a fastball letter high right down the middle, and he put a hurt on it. The second home run was on another pitch up in the strike zone and Sandoval went with it on the outside edge of the plate, and using the velocity supplied by JV he sent it soaring into the left field stands. Kudos. But on his third home run, something was fishy, and I hope the Tigers rectify it. Al Alburquerque threw two pitches to Sandoval during that at-bat. Pablo sent the second one, a well-located slider down in the zone, into center for his third home run of the game. As a result he etched his name alongside that of three other players known by their nicknames: Babe, Mr. October, and Phat Albert. But it was the first pitch AlAl threw to Sandoval that disturbed me. It was a slider down and in, and Sandoval swung from his heels. He jumped out of his shoes and hacked at that ball like he was in a beer league softball game. He almost tore a button on his jersey. One of his molars practically came loose.

The Tigers can’t allow that to happen.

There was a time when if a batter had some success and then came to the plate overconfident and swung like that, he would be hit in the ribs by the next pitch. That’s not dirty baseball, that’s smart baseball. Sandoval was way too comfortable up there at the plate by that time. He proved it with that monster swing on the first offering from Alburquerque. You can’t let a batter be that comfortable at the plate, I don’t care what era this is. If Bob Gibson, or Steve Carlton, or Nolan Ryan, or heck even Jack Morris had watched Sandoval swing like that, the next pitch would have buzzed his tower. Not to hurt him, but to send a message: Hey buddy, this plate belongs to me. Back off.

Instead, Pablo Sandoval extended his arms over the plate and had an invitation to hack away from the heels. His last time up he lined a single. Still, no one brushed him back a little, no one made him move his feet, no one caused him some discomfort. It’s not about punishing him for hitting those home runs, it’s about sending a message that this isn’t home run derby, you aren’t going to be able to just stand up there relaxed and wave your bat through the zone like a beast. The Tigers failed to send that message, and that was a missed opportunity.

What’s wrong with JV? Nothing is wrong with him. He’s pitched more than 270 innings this year and he made some good pitches that were hit hard. He also made a few bad pitches. He also had some bad luck when the Giants played pinball wizard off the third base bag in the third inning.

The Tigers offense should have done some more damage off Barry Zito, who lives and dies by nibbling the corners. Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young just missed crushing a few of his pitches, but that’s the difference between a big inning and a big fat zero on the board.

Jim Leyland inserted Jose Valverde into the game in the 7th inning, apparently because he’s the only man in America who doesn’t see that Big Potato is overcooked. Valverde promptly surrendered a pair of runs, which made a five-run deficit a seven-run deficit. Too bad, because Detroit got two runs in the 9th on a home run from Jhonny Peralta, who is having a very good post-season. I hope Leyland has figured it out – Papa Grande is not Grande anymore.

The Giants are up 1-0 in this Series, but there’s no need to panic. The Tigers are one classic Doug Fister outing away from tying it up and stealing home field advantage before flying home for three games.

The longer the Series goes, the more likely fluke plays like the bouncer off third base, will even out. The longer the Series goes, the more likely that Detroit’s starting rotation will shut down what is normally a very average Giants offense. The longer this Series goes, the more likely we’ll see the Triple Crown winner deliver big time.

Either team can win this World Series: we saw it last season when the heavily favored Texas Rangers were beaten by the St. Louis Cardinals. But the Tigers still have the edge, they just need to assert their advantage tonight in Game Two.

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