Baseball Insider

After Game 1 surprises, Giants' postseason run seems too good to be true


Barry Zito, a bust for most of his Giants career, has been unexpectedly clutch lately. (Getty Images)  
Barry Zito, a bust for most of his Giants career, has been unexpectedly clutch lately. (Getty Images)  

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants aren't merely ballplayers. They are script writers.

Here, in the most beautiful setting Major League Baseball offers, the underdog Giants are doing things that defy reality. As they endeavor to make it two improbable World Series titles in three years following a drought of 55 years, they continue to achieve things in their gorgeous ballpark that seem too good to be true.

"We've got to ride the momentum," is the way Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who's a sudden relief hero in their unlikely tale, put it.

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At this point, is there much doubt?

Fresh off their 9-0 whitewashing of the world champion Cardinals that got them into the World Series (coincidentally the same score as a forfeit), the Giants put together an arguably even better, more remarkable performance in Game 1 of the Fall Classic -- an 8-3 victory against the ultra-talented Detroit Tigers. It's getting to the point where the Giants do so many remarkable things within the three-hour-plus game span it's often hard to pick out the most remarkable.

Though in this case, maybe not quite so "incredibly hard," as ex-A's coach Ron Washington once said in a winning Hollywood script for the smash-hit movie about that team from across the Bay.

Panda-monium is the film title for the Giants' Game 1 victory. That sums up the feeling in this picturesque setting in the ballpark by the Bay.

Kung Fu Panda, or Pablo Sandoval as he is occasionally known here, went crazy with the bat, and they all went wild here. The slightly portly Panda hit home runs in his first three at-bats, before settling for a single in his fourth and final time up.

That's remarkable enough considering it's the World Series, and only all-time greats like Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth (twice) have ever homered three times in a World Series game. And sure, it's hard to top Reggie's three home runs on three pitches on closing night in the Bronx. But Panda did it in one of the best pitchers' parks in the majors, and also against the best pitcher in the bigs (two of the three came against Tigers starter Justin Verlander).

Lincecum said the team was "partying" in the dugout to celebrate Panda's amazing feat.

Panda is an incredible talent who has sometimes disappointed Giants management with weight gains and focus lapses, and he found himself benched for all but one of the 2010 World Series games. Now he is batting third, and scaring opponents.

"We were going nuts," is how Barry Zito put it. "We've seen a lot of stuff from Pablo. I can remember a couple of sliders he hit in the water that were just ridiculous, so it's kind of hard to impress us with what we've seen. But we were all very impressed tonight."

For the record, the other nominees for remarkable San Francisco Giants achievement of the night are these:

  They battered Verlander, who took a 0.74 ERA for this postseason into the game and had an 11.25 ERA for the evening, which is only good compared to the 45.00 ERA he had for the All-Star Game, which is the reason Game 1 was here in the first place;

  Zito, who has been beaten up by fans of good pitching and fiscal sense for almost all of his six seasons in San Francisco, allowed no runs to the vaunted, powerful Tigers lineup through five innings, and only one total run, while making it 14 consecutive starts that ended with a Giants victory.

Zito, never much of a hitter, also made it four consecutive games with an RBI for Giants pitchers, remarkable since none of those pitchers was Madison Bumgarner, the one Giants pitcher who can really rake. Zito lined a single to left off Verlander this time, maybe only slightly less surprising than his bunt hit in his stunning NLCS Game 5 win;

Zito and Lincecum, a pair of former Cy Young winners, combined to put a stranglehold on the game. They are also both engineering nice comebacks, Zito from five tough previous years, and Lincecum from one impossibly up-and-down regular season when he had the worst ERA among qualifiers in the National League;

  Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner, has become a folk hero/well-paid bullpen guy. He whiffed the first three Tigers he faced in relief of Zito, starting with Jhonny Peralta with two on in the most crucial at-bat of the game (if there are crucial at-bats in an 8-3 game), and five of the seven Tigers he faced.

Lincecum is so good out of the pen he looks like he could be the Giants closer next year. But first, in manager Bruce Bochy's new alignment, he has become nothing short of a force. Zito said, "To have Tim in the bullpen, it's just like ridiculous. He's such a tool in our pocket that we can bust out anytime -- a guy who has made history with two Cy Youngs."

Lincecum didn't love the relief idea at first, but it has worked so well, he's embracing it now. Giants people believed he was overthinking his starts. There's too much time to fret, to worry and to think, they thought. "I can eliminate further thoughts that can creep in there," Lincecum said. "I'm doing better out of the bullpen. I'm just going to ride that";

  The great Marco Scutaro, just for kicks, made it seven games out of eight where he had two hits;

  Gregor Blanco, the left fielder in for his defense -- and also because he's not Melky Cabrera -- made two carbon copy diving plays in left field ("pretty much the same ball," he said), and hopefully put an end once and for all to those silly spare national voices who thought the Giants should have activated the stale pariah Melky (obviously those couple of folks haven't been paying attention).

If you go just on the numbers, maybe you believe the Giants goofed by not activating the drugging, scheming Cabrera. But if you've been watching this team band together from Day One P.C. (Post Cabrera), you understand they don't want him around.

They don't want him, and they don't need him. The Giants are writing a wonderful story that seemingly can only end happily now.

They blew away a pretty good field in the NL West after Cabrera was caught.

They beat the Reds and their old manager Dusty Baker three consecutive games in Cincinnati when nobody figured they would.

They beat the World Champions three straight when the Cardinals looked like October's darling.

They made it six victories in six consecutive elimination games this postseason.

And now they look ready to eliminate any doubt that this is, once again, their year.

Some things you can't explain. At the moment, the San Francisco Giants qualify as one of those things.


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