Heading into the World Series, most people believed the Detroit Tigers would defeat the San Francisco Giants. After all, Detroit had just swept the New York Yankees. The Tigers have a powerful lineup and an excellent starting rotation. However, so far in the Series, the Giants have dominated in every aspect of the game.
For the first time during this postseason, the Giants have an opportunity to sweep an opponent.
Also, for the first time since 1966, a team in the World Series has thrown two consecutive shutouts. No one foresaw that happening against the Tigers, whose lineup features Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, and slugger Prince Fielder. However, people underestimated the arms of Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.
The Giants have been lucky using every scoring opportunity, but they haven't appeared nervous. They truly believe if a player fails to deliver the necessary hit to score a run, the next guy in their lineup will get the job done. At no time during the postseason, even when they had to win the game to continue, have the Giants looked panicked or had a player trying to do too much. This is refreshing to watch in this era when baseball focuses on and rewards individual accomplishments, and doesn't praise the team that works together to achieve a common goal.
While the Giants are a team in every sense of the word, the Tigers, similar to most modern baseball teams, appear to rely on individual achievements to win. During the playoffs, the teams that can work together and believe in each player's ability to contribute usually win the championship. Oh yes, not many people could imagine both Cabrera and Fielder going into slumps at the same time, but every Tiger seems to be waiting for a three-run homer to break a game open and give their team some momentum.
Except for Justin Verlander, whom many consider the best pitcher in the game, the Tigers have received outstanding pitching from starters Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez, but nothing compared to the Giants' trio of Zito, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong, who have allowed only one run. During the World Series, the Giants haven't allowed the Tigers to string together three hits, and this makes it difficult for any team to score.
The Giants' defense has been amazing, and this has been the main difference in the Series. Whenever the Giants have needed a double play they have gotten it. Marco Scutaro has continued to play great defense, usually beginning the necessary double play. Brandon Crawford, though making his first error of the playoffs on Saturday, has displayed a spectacular throwing arm. Pablo Sandoval, not known for his defense, has made several great defensive plays at third base, preventing many possible extra-base hits. Gregor Blanco, with blazing speed, has been everywhere in left field and catching everything that he could reach. When the Giants make the Tigers get hits to produce runs, it is more difficult for them to score.
Since the end of Game 4 in the NLCS, the Giants haven't trailed in a game. Except for Game 1 of the World Series, the Giants haven't knocked the cover off the ball but have used every offensive weapon to score. A well-rounded offense usually produces more than a one-dimensional offense that the Tigers appear to have. Every night, the Giants have a different offensive star.
In the playoffs, Pablo Sandoval has become an offensive machine while getting national attention for his defensive prowess. He is the first Giant to have more than 23 hits in the postseason. Despite having a longer postseason than in the past, this record is magnificent.
In the first game of the World Series, Sandoval became the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. In the 2012 regular season marred with two stints on the disabled list with a broken hand and a strained hamstring, Sandoval hit a mere dozen home runs, and now in the postseason when healthy, he has blasted six homers. If the World Series ends in Game 4 on Sunday, Sandoval deserves to be named the MVP of the Series.
The total domination of the Detroit Tigers wasn't expected by anyone. The five-day layoff between the end of the ALCS and the beginning of the World Series obviously has affected the play of the Tigers, especially offensively. However, the Giants carried their momentum from the NLCS to the World Series, enabling them to win the first three games. Although the Series is lopsided, it has been exciting and generally well played on both sides.