A Surprising Game

Of all the major sports, baseball provides the most surprises and unexpected outcomes, particularly when it comes to the post-season.

I thought the Giants behind Barry Zito would be extremely hard-pressed to beat Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball at this moment, and the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series.  Shows what I know.

Yes, the Giants had won Zito’s last 13 starts (streaks are made to be broken), and Zito had pitched the best game of his career in Game 5 of the NLCS (anyone starting in the play-offs is good enough to pitch one great game) — I still thought Zito had been bucking the law of averages long enough.  Turns out I was wrong.

As for Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs, that actually surprises me less than Zito’s terrific performance tonight.  While three home runs in a game is obviously something extremely rare, if you told a serious Giants fan that a Giant hit three home runs in a post-season game and that Giant was Pablo Sandoval, I don’t think they’d be particularly surprised.

Sandoval’s talent is enormous.  His bat is incredibly fast, and he is a bad ball hitter of Vladimir Guerrero/Yogi Berra caliber.

Here are the highlights of Game 1.  Note that none of the three pitches Pablo hit out of the park were bad pitches.

The first was a high 0-2 fastball.  The pitch got too much of the plate, and Verlander didn’t have his best fastball.  Even so, there are very few hitters in baseball that can square up a high 95 mph fastball like that one and drive it out to center field.

The second home run came when Pablo took a low and outside strike the other way to straight-away left field.  Not a perfect pitch, but hardly a mistake, and a pitch on which if the hitter drills it, the pitcher can only tip his cap.

The final home run came on an Al Albuquerque breaking pitch that had dipped below the strike zone when Pablo launched it.  It was not a pitch an average major league hitter would hit out of the park 400 feet to dead center.

If the Giants go on to win this World Series, I expect that fans outside of the Bay Area will become pretty sick of the Giants, the team having won two of the last three World Series.  Even so, one thing that should endear the Giants to baseball fans generally is that they are one of the only teams in baseball where players still have nicknames.

Gerald “Buster” Posey; Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval; Brandon “Baby Giraffe” Belt; Tim “The Freak” Lincecum; Angel “Cabello Loco/Crazy Horse” Pagan; Marco “Blockbuster” Scutaro; Gregor “White Shark” Blanco; Brian “The Beard” Wilson; Melky “The Melk Man” Cabrera [“The Juice Man”?];  Matt “Big Sugar” Cain [what they called him in high school in Germantown, TN]; Hunter “The Reverend” Pence [I suggest “Crazy Eyes”]; Ryan “Vogey” Vogelsong [kinda lame]; Barry “Planet Zito/Captain Quirk” Zito [haven’t heard these much since he became a big money Giant]; and Madison “Sad Mad” Bumgarner [this is my nickname I’m hoping will catch on — see photo here: he looks like he’s about to cry].

Unlike the old days when nicknames were largely the creation of sportswriters looking to add color to their reports of the day’s games, most of the current Giants’ nicknames were assigned by their teammates and then picked up on by sportswriters and fans.

Explore posts in the same categories: Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants

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