AT&T Park

Thanks to a lucky break and some fantastic co-workers, I was able to attend game one of the World Series at AT&T Park. The closest I’d come to being at a game of this magnitude was in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. AT&T was rockin’ that day. But it was no where near as loud as it was on Wednesday night. It was rock-concert loud and the home crowd fans rarely stopped cheering. They rarely stopped moving. They were standing up and clapping, sitting down and rally towel-waving, jumping up and high-fiving, and chanting for Barry Zito and Pablo Sandoval or telling Justin Verlander that he sucks.

(Guys, he really doesn’t suck.)

But before I get to the game, I wanted to step back a bit. Giants fans really enjoy being the underdog. We do so much that we love to point out that ESPN, an east coast company, favors the east coast teams. But we also make that mean that it’s an anti-west coast bias. We say, “ESPN just hates the Giants and their fans.” While I’m sure there is an east coast bias with ESPN to an extent simply because it’s better for their business, it’s not really as bad as we say it is.

So why do we make it seem so much like an anti-west coast bias? It’s because we like our teams to have their backs against the wall. We like being able to point at the national media and say that they’re missing out by not noticing how good our team is. When ESPN published their “experts” World Series predictions, I was hoping that few were going to pick the Giants. It would give fans something to get upset about. ESPN didn’t fail me. Out of twenty eight predictions, only five chose the Giants. It was very reminiscent to 2010 when twenty eight “experts” predicted the World Series winner and only six chose the Giants. And we remember what happened in 2010, so deep inside, we wanted the Tigers to be heavily favored in 2012 too, even though the Giants had the much better regular season.

Go forth ESPN. Say that the Tigers had too much time off, or that Verlander was rusty. Maybe they did and maybe he was. But do it in a way that discounts what the Giants did so that they can still play with their backs against the wall. That’s how we fans like it, even if we may not admit it.

With Justin Verlander pitching two games in the series for Detroit, I imagine most “experts” figured that of the five games he doesn’t pitch, the Tigers would just have to win two of those in addition to Verlander’s two starts and they’d be the champs. But really, most didn’t figure the Giants would beat Verlander like they did in game one. Just like they didn’t expect the Giants to beat Cliff Lee in game one in 2010. Giants fans had this figured out. All you have to do is search Twitter and put the names “Lee” and “Verlander” in the search. Giants fans have been calling this one since the Monday night.

That being said, Justin Verlander will pitch again and he will give his team a chance to compete and win. So will Doug Fister. So will Anibal Sanchez, and more than likely Max Scherzer too. It will be up to the Giants’ starting pitchers to follow Barry Zito’s very good (for five innings) start. The crowd at AT&T Park was behind Zito from the first pitch even though Verlander was throwing 14MPH harder than he was. Zito was the underdog.

I won’t go into heavy analysis because I didn’t get to watch the game on TV. But I wanted to list out some thoughts that were going through my mind while watching in person.

  • Buster Posey is beloved. Barry Zito (and #RallyZito) is super popular right now. But no one on this team is cheered for more when doing well than Tim Lincecum. When Lincecum replaced Zito and was the best pitcher on the field, he was cheered like it was 2010 and he was striking out fourteen Atlanta Braves hitters. His 2012 was (and still is considering he’s coming out of the bullpen) a disaster, but he’s having himself a great playoffs out of the bullpen. His one start was terrible, but out of the pen, he’s been untouchable.
  • Thanks to my friend Bob Maloney for this one — Cy Young winner Barry Zito was replaced by Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and on the other side was Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. How cool is that?
  • I have a small prediction. If Pablo Sandoval can mature, he will be the in the Will Clark/Matt Williams/Jeff Kent caliber of San Francisco Giants sluggers. But if he doesn’t mature and push himself, he’ll simply be a “what if” for Giants fans. I don’t think there’s much in between for Pablo. But he put on an amazing performance Wednesday night. Check out Giants fans erupting when Sandoval hit his third home run.

  • Zito was much sharper against the Cardinals last Friday, but he did just enough to throw off the timing of the hitters mixing a seventy-three MPH curveball and an eighty-five MPH fastball. It was a great setup for Lincecum too, who came into the game with two outs in the sixth. After watching Zito’s balloon curve, hitters had to see a moving fastball and a drop-off-the-table change.
  • Gregor Blanco is amazing to watch in left field. He gets such great jumps and reads angles perfectly. I would love to see him get a shot to play center field next year even if Angel Pagan comes back. He’s the Giants’ best outfielder by far, no matter how much the media tries to big up Pagan. I may be a little hard on Pagan because I think he gets terrible jumps and has a noodle arm, but Blanco deserves to be playing in center. He’s that good.
  • Hunter Pence could use a day off. He looks lost at the plate. I understand that he’s an emotional leader, and better yet, the Giants don’t want to mess with what’s working, but Bochy needs to save Pence from Pence. Before Pence’s first at bat, I joked with my friend that Pence was going to strike out four times on twelve pitches. Well, he struck out three times and didn’t see many more pitches than that.
  • Marco Scutaro quietly had another two hits. He’s a locked-in machine. He has such an amazing eye. Not only does he not strike out. He doesn’t swing at bad pitches. His demeanor is even more impressive in person.

Game two is a huge one now for the Tigers. Doug Fister has only given up two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings in the playoffs so far. He faces Madison Bumgarner who has been the exact opposite. If the Tigers have a chance to swing things back in their favor, this is their most favorable match-up. Fister needs to pick up his ace. Bumgarner needs to feed off of Zito.

(I posted photos from World Series game one at the Facebook page, Thompson To Clark. Give the page a “like” while you’re at it.)

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