BOX SCORESAN FRANCISCO -- If Bruce Bochy wishes to announce that his World Series Game 2 starter is Louis CK, you need to be prepared to nod, say, Yeah, good call. Well done. Brilliant stroke.
Because while we have always known that Bochy is one of the best pitching manipulators in managing history, its when his choices hit every note every time, game in and game out, that you see that his true ability is to see things mere mortals do not.
So it is that in the wake of the Giants 8-3 win over Detroit in Game 1 of the Series, the much-told redemptive story will be of Pablo Sandoval, the man who hit three home runs three different ways and re-defined the concept of the great bad-ball hitter.
But the back story will be of the other redeemed characters, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum, who took the Detroit lineup and muzzled it. They didnt need to worry about the long shadow of Justin Verlander, because they knew that ultimately the Tigers are defined by their offense.
And their offense was stripped and readied for lacquering.
To be able to go up against Verlander, and give our team a chance to go up 1-0, and the fact that we won, its just kind of surreal, Zito said.
And then, including Lincecum, he expanded the definition of the term.
To have him in the bullpen, its just like ridiculous, Zito said. Its such a tool in our pocket that we can bust out at any time a guy who has made history. It was just really special personally too to watch Timmy carve them and just do what he does.
Between them, they lasted eight innings, allowed six hits and a single run, walking one and striking out eight. These were Verlander numbers, only Verlanders looked like they were backwards: 4 6 5 5 1 4 .
And while Sandoval, and to lesser extents Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey had their hands in most of the eight Giant runs, the eye-opener was that Zito and Lincecum seemed to merge as one, like some sort of heavy-lidded Transformer and redefine the series before it even got a chance to begin.
Zito gave up five of his six hits to the top four Tiger hitters -- Austin Jackson, Omar Infante, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. But only Cabreras in the sixth actually raised a welt, and the bottom five spots in the order did nothing whatsoever. In short, Zito carved Detroits lineup card in half.
Mostly he was just spotting his cutter and fastball in, Posey said. He just stayed with his plan, and moved the ball around. He got a couple of pitches up, but mostly he put it where he wanted it put.
And by the time Lincecum came in the sixth, the game was already boxed, taped and labeled. Still, he struck out five of the seven Tigers he faced despite his fastball capping at 92, and gave every indication that pitching out of the stretch and without a lot of time to fret about his work is actually becoming the cure to whats ailed him.
Mostly, Im just pitching, and not worrying about the mechanics and stuff, he said. I was just trying to get outs, really. We had a lead, and I know we came back from behind in the last two series, but we dont want to do that again. We want to get this over as quickly as possible.
That wont be as easy as Game 1 suggests, unless Bochy has also transmogrified Madison Bumgarner, the Game 2 starter. And bluff old seamhead that he is, he wont be banking on Sandoval hitting three more homers. This series got easier, but not easy. Not yet.
But a tone has been set, because the biggest pitching disappointments of 2010 and 2012 are only barely related to the fellows wearing their uniforms today. Barry Zito is one of the leading feel-good stories of the postseason, Tim Lincecum is beginning to reinvent himself two innings at a time, and the Giants are making a statement that looks an awful lot like a boot in the nethers.
Put another way, theyve given up four runs in four games and 22 in eight. One set of figures means one run a game, the other 2.75.
Either way, thats pitching, which is right in Bruce Bochys wheelhouse. That means well be writing about Louis CK gave up comedy to be a World Series hero, because at this point, any story line connected to San Franciscos pitching is completely believable.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com