SAN FRANCISCO -- Jim Leyland leads all active managers with 1,676 wins. So when he breaks down one of his fellow skippers, the baseball world should take notice. Leyland, 67, has apparently long admired Giants manager Bruce Bochy's work. Before Game Two the Tigers' skipper said he thought Bochy was one of the best, even when he was at the helm of the San Diego Padres.
"Bruce Bochy is a great manager in my opinion," Leyland said. "He always has been. He runs a good ship; he doesn't get too excited. He's tremendous with his bullpen."
Bochy is third on the active list with 1,454 victories, ranking 23rd all-time. Leyland is 15th on the list. Bochy's Giants earned the praise by taking Game One of the World Series, 8-3, in a game that saw Barry Zito out-duel reigning American League Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander.
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"They were better than we were last night, plain and simple," Leyland said. "In these games you have got to turn the page."
Leyland said there's no chance that Verlander will pitch in Game Four. He is still scheduled to go in Game Five. Verlander is now 0-3 in his three career World Series starts. He threw an Un-Verlander-like 98 pitches over four innings and allowed five runs on Wednesday. Leyland, Verlander, and catcher Alex Avila all admitted the ace was a bit out of whack after an eight-day break.
They will have to hope Merced native Doug Fister is, for lack of a better term, in whack, against his hometown team. Fister is a long-time admirer of the San Francisco Giants and will certainly have family and friends on hand to watch him pitch. Couple that with the World Series stage, and knowing the Giants are already up 1-0 in the series, and he could be facing a bit of pressure. This is a game that he will never forget for many reasons.
"Growing up, don't tell anybody, I was a Giants fan, and being able to come to a couple games when I was little, it's always been a dream and a goal for me, and now it's happening," Fister said of pitching in San Francisco. "It holds a little bit more special place in my heart, I would say, but it doesn't change what we do on the field."
Fister was 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA in the regular season. He has a 1.35 ERA in two postseason starts in 2012 but didn't get a win in either game. The Giants may have a huge advantage with Madison Bumgarner pitching. Yet, it doesn't have anything to do with what each pitcher will be doing on the mound.
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"The guy pitching tonight for them is a really good hitter," Leyland said. "Our guy is not supposed to be a good hitter. That is some type of edge."
Giants starting pitchers have actually driven in a run in four-straight games.
"They take batting practice everyday," Bochy said of his pitchers. "They bunt everyday, and there's a good chance they come up there and help themselves, and our guys have done a great job."
The Tigers will hope to increase their odds of getting to the left-handed Bumgarner in Game Two by swapping their catchers. Right-handed hitter Gerald Laird will get the start. Alex Avila will be back in the lineup when the Tigers face Ryan Vogelsong in Game Three in Detroit. Avila got the start against Zito, who throws left-handed. He went 0 for 3.
"Tonight we'll go back to our total right-handed lineup," Leyland said.
The Tigers will have to hope it works. They have an uphill climb ahead of them. Every home team to win Game One since 1993 has ended up winning the World Series.