Once... twice... three times a Panda.
History, ladies and gentlepeople, señoras y señores. We all just witnessed history, and one hell of a message: "Justin Verlander 95 at the letters no big deal." It's an 0-2 pitch that Verlander will no doubt be happy to throw to thousands of major league batters the rest of his career. Tonight, Pablo Sandoval's first swing became a symbol of the entire game: Don't expect the obvious. It ain't gonna happen. Balls will hit bases and allow Angel Pagan not only a single but a double, where Marco Scutaro will knock him home. Barry Zito will shut down the mighty Tigers and wield a terrible sword -- in the Middle English sense, that is. Terrible, full of terror. Rally Barry Zito, medieval terrorista / slap-hittin' Verlander from here to Monte Vista!
I'm working on it. Meanwhile, no one got naked or threw soy lattes onto the field or arrested the Tigers for using plastic bags, much to the chagrin of visiting writers under tremendous pressure to file "San Francisco: Weird!" stories. They got plenty of it on the field.
It's a matter of time until Pat Robertson condemns our sinful city for letting a Pagan lead us into battle. Indeed, and we shall praise him, if not forever and ever, then at least one more night for the number Angel put down on Verlander: 22.
That's the number of pitches he saw from Verlander. Six pitches in the first before grounding out, eight more in the third before his chopper to third hit the bag and trickled into left field and started a three run, two out rally. Then he forced eight more pitches in the fifth, when Verlander was about to exit and the game was already in hand. Pagan did nothing more than hit three ground balls, one extremely well placed, but with his work in the first inning plus Sandoval's home run, the theme was set. The Giants would not be carved up like pumpkins.
Let's make sure to note Brandon Crawford hit two balls on the nose tonight into outs, and in another bat he made contact with Belt on the move, avoiding a double play. Crawford was out, but anytime you can get a guy into scoring position for Barry Zito, it's a productive out.
[Aside: Sweet Jesus, if I have to hear Marty Lurie say one more time "They played like it was just another game! That's why I love this team!" I'm going to strangle my dog, who happens to be a professional hitter. I also don't have a dog. By the way, why do inarticulate commentators love to say "he's a professional hitter" but no one ever says "he's a professional pitcher"? Are unspectacular but reassuringly competent pitchers something other than professional?]
So we turn around and do it again tomorrow, with Madison Bumgarner on the mound, and we'll see quickly if Rags & Co. tinkered successfully. One key is whether he can pinpoint his cutter/slider down under the hands of right handers without it running flat, and whether he can execute the same pitch but on the other side of the plate. The Reds and Cardinals both hit that pitch hard because Bumgarner didn't have late snap on it. Even when it was inside, hitters were able to spin on it. If Bumgarner still isn't right, Lincecum won't be shadowing him after pitching his spotless relief of Zito tonight. Bochy already said post-game Timmy was unavailable for Game 2. That means Guillermo Mota would have to hold the fort as the long man.
Here's hoping it's academic and MadBum finds some kind of groove. Because this is San Francisco, and as every hayseed out-of-towner suspects, we try to spend most of our days here feelin' groovy.