After the Tigers starters posted a 1.02 ERA in the nine playoff games versus the Athletics and Yankees, most Tigers fans and national analysts considered the Tigers to be heavy favorites in the World Series versus the Giants. Most were counting on a win from ace Justin Verlander who already had three wins and a 0.74 ERA in three post-season games. It was just a matter of whether he could pitch a shutout or a complete game.
In Major League Baseball though, you can expect the unexpected and that's what happened tonight. Verlander allowed five runs on six hits in just four innings. Giants hefty third baseman Pablo Sandoval did most of the damage hitting homers off Verlander in the first and third innings. The Panda added another bomb off reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth making him the fourth player to hit three homers in a World Series game. The others were Babe Ruth (twice), Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.
So, Verlander proved that he is human and the Giants showed that they aren't going to be steamrolled this series. Let's not forget though that the Tigers have three other excellent starters lined up this week - Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.. In fact, the five runs allowed by Verlander tonight matched the total given up by the starting staff in the previous six games. That tells us as much about the performance of the Tigers rotation than it does about Verlander's outing tonight. All we can do right now is patiently wait for Fister's start tomorrow night.
The Tigers bullpen sorted itself out a little bit tonight. Former closer Jose Valverde entered the game up 6-1 in the seventh and could retire only one batter - pitcher Tim Lincecum on strikes. The next four batters reached safely on base hits. That likely ends Valverde's 2012 season.
On a positive note. the Potato was replaced by setup man Joaquin Benoit who struck out the only two batters he faced. That was encouraging because Benoit has been struggling and they need him to be sharp the rest of the series. Rick Porcello also pitched a scoreless inning, so we may see him again as well.