UPDATE: Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs to lead the Giants to an 8-3 victory over the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. Two of the blasts came off Detroit ace Justin Verlander who labored through four innings to take the loss. Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum combined to pitch the first eight innings for San Francisco, and hold the Tigers to just one run.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy had to turn his starting pitching rotation inside-out in the NLCS partly because he wasn’t about to trust the recently-struggling Madison Bumgarner in a lose-or-go-home scenario against the Cardinals.
A change of heart by the skipper, however, will give Bumgarner another chance on Thursday night in Game 2 of the World Series against Detroit at AT&T Park.
Meanwhile, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will send Doug Fister to the mound on Thursday. A quick check with the Don Best MLB odds screen notes that Fister has been posted at -125 with a 7-run total priced equally 'over/under.'
First pitch in San Francisco will be at 8:05 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, with big FOX covering the action. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will provide the descriptions.
The real intrigue in Game 2, however, surrounds Bochy and his decision to go with Bumgarner, which has surprised a few onlookers who thought the Giants skipper might go in another direction after Barry Zito got the call in Game 1. It was thought that the recently-hot Ryan Vogelsong could get the assignment, but Vogelsong, who was superb again on Sunday night in the Game 6 NLCS win over St. Louis, has not pitched on only three days of rest this season, and Bochy instead opted to push Vogelsong to Game 3 on Saturday at Comerica Park.
Then, if not Vogelsong, many suspected Bochy might call on Tim Lincecum. But Bochy’s gamble with Lincecum in the rotation blew up in his face in Game 4 of the NLCS, when the Cards rocked the two-time Cy Young Award winner who had pitched so well out of the bullpen earlier in the postseason. Bochy instead decided to keep Lincecum in the bullpen as a long-relief option.
Which meant that Bochy would instead gamble with Bumgarner, who, along with pitching coach Dave Righetti, identified a mechanical flaw that was contributing to his string of recently-ineffective efforts. Bumgarner struggled from late August into mid-September before temporarily righting the ship in a pair of late-season starts vs. the Rockies and Padres. But beginning with his final regular-season start at San Diego on September 29, Bumgarner had allowed 19 hits and 15 runs (14 of them earned) over three starts comprising just 12 innings of works, translating to an 11.25 ERA. The Giants also lost all three of those games by a combined score of 23-7.
Bochy, however, doesn’t figure to give Bumgarner much rope if the recent problems resurface in Game 2. Lincecum’s presence out of the bullpen, where he had pitched very well in the postseason, allowing just three hits and one run in three effective appearances games comprising 8 1/3 IP, is a nice default option as it was in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Reds, when Lincecum shut down the Reds after Zito had wobbled in the early innings at Great American Ballpark.
On the other hand, Leyland has few such concerns about Fister, who has been superb in his two postseason starts, wins over the A’s and Yankees. In those games, Fister allowed just two runs and 12 hits over 13 1/3 IP, striking out another 13 along the way.
What advantages the Tigers might seem to have with the starting pitching, however, appear to disappear once the bullpens become involved. Detroit’s relief corps, which was hardly tested in the ALCS vs. the Yankees, could be vulnerable, and there are questions as to the choices Leyland will make in the waning innings of a close game.
Leyland could return to normal closer Jose Valverde, whose meltdowns in the ALDS vs. Oakland and ALCS vs. New York caused him to be removed from the closer's role. Perhaps Leyland rides the hotter arm in the left-handed Phil Coke, or he could turn to Joaquin Benoit, particularly at AT&T Park, where fly balls might be more willing to come down. Or he will take the sum of their strengths, along with those of Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque, and spend a little more time doing laps to the mound.
Valverde’s recent implosions, however, suggest a decided bullpen advantage to Bochy’s San Francisco, which has a deep and flexible corps of firemen now augmented by the long-relief option offered by Lincecum. The collection of Guillermo Mota, Jose Mijares, George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo, plus Lincecum, gives Bochy all sorts of left-right options and plenty of depth that was a question mark after closer Brian Wilson went down with injury early in the season.
Moreover, the Giants have an acknowledged defensive edge, especially in the infield, over the Tigers.
While Detroit has plenty of star power, including Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, if Game 2 and the rest of this series are going to be decide by the bullpen and defense, it might be advantage San Francisco.