During the late innings of NLCS Game 7 blowout on Monday night, Giants fans could be heard chanting “We want Detroit.”
Well, the Giants are going to get Detroit. They are going to get the best shot from the American League champions. And like the first two rounds of the playoffs, it’s not going to be easy.
By completing the sweep of the New York Yankees last Thursday, the Tigers have had a chance to rest all of their starters and set up their rotation for optimal use.
The best pitcher on the planet, Justin Verlander, takes center stage in Game 1. But because the Giants needed all seven NLCS games to advance, they were forced to use Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain to close out the series and wont be able to use them until the series moves to Detroit.
That means the Giants had to choose between Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner to pitch the first two games.
Ordinarily, Giants fans might have faith in any of those three, but Bumgarner hasn’t pitched well in two starts this postseason and it felt like Bruce Bochy was reluctant to even use the 23-year-old in relief late in the NLCS.
Lincecum pitched well in three relief appearances this postseason, but couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning in his one start in Game 4 of the NLCS.
That leaves Barry Zito, who is coming off the game of his life in Game 5. There was speculation after Game 7 that Zito would get the nod in Game 1, but Bochy steered clear of making an official announcement after the game.
But just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Bochy made it official:
That’s right. Barry William Zito is starting Game 1 of the World Series.
Two years ago, the Giants didn’t even want him coming out of the bullpen and now he will start one of the biggest games of the season.
Zito will have to duplicate his last outing, or the Giants might be out of it early with Verlander on the mound. If Zito gives up one or two runs early, that could be the ballgame if Verlander is pitching well.
According to CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly, Bochy wanted to tell Zito before telling the rest of the world, but he couldn’t reach Zito. Bochy described Zito’s reaction once he was finally able to tell the lefty of his decision:
“…I think we all knew that Barry was starting, and I think he had a good idea. He was ecstatic. He was proud, honored that we have the trust in him to start Game 1.”
Late Tuesday night, Bochy announced that Bumgarner would get the start in Game 2 on Thursday.
After skipping his start at the end of the NLCS, the Giants are ready to go back to their young lefty. The last time Bumgarner pitched in the World Series, he hurled eight shutout innings in Texas during Game 4 in 2010:
“Madison has had a break, which we wanted to give him. It’s allowed him to get some bullpens in, work on some things.”
Bumgarner thinks he and pitching coach Dave Righetti have figured out that over-rotating during his delivery was causing him to struggle during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Giants will face Doug Fister in Game 2. Fister has give up just two runs in 13-1/3 innings this postseason with 13 strikeouts.
When the series shifts back to Motown, the Giants will finally get to use their best two bullets, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain in Games 3 and 4, respectively. But the Tigers will matchup with two equally dangerous arms in Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.
Prior to a mid-season trade, Sanchez pitched his entire career with the Miami Marlins, so the Giants know Sanchez. But Sanchez has dominated the Giants in five career starts. In 36 1/3 regular season innings against the Giants, Sanchez has a 1.98 ERA including two complete game shutouts at AT&T Park.
Scherzer may not a dominant shutdown ace pitcher yet, but he strikes out opponents like an ace. In just 187 2/3 innings, he struck out 231, the 2nd most in the majors, just behind Verlander.
Combined, those four starters for the Tigers have had an incredible postseason. So far, they given up just seven earned runs in 62 innings for a 1.02 ERA and struck out 66 opposing hitters in this 62 innings.
If the Giants can get into the Tigers bullpen, they will give themselves a great shot at winning the series. The struggles of Tigers closer Jose Valverde have been well-documented. He may not close games during the series, which means each relievers’ role has increased in importance.
And you can’t talk about the Tigers without bringing up Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner since 1967. Cabrera is the most dangerous hitter in baseball. The Giants have to limit the damage he causes, and with two lefties going in the first two games, the Giants should go after Prince Fielder rather than allowing Cabrera to beat them.
And the Tigers have a Mini Cabrera that is starting to get some attention: Avisail Garcia was a highly-rated prospect coming into the season, and he has made an impact since being called up August 31. In 23 regular season games, he hit .319. So far in 18 postseason at-bat, he has six hits and four RBI.
The Tigers pose a tough matchup for the Giants, but if the men in Orange and Black can get into the Tigers bullpen, pitch around Cabrera like teams used to pitch around Barry Bonds, and hand over leads to their rock-solid bullpen, the Giants can win this series.