Baseball: Detroit motor to World Series as battling Giants do it the hard way
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Wednesday 24 October 2012
The comeback team against the would-be comeback city. Such is the 2012 World Series which opens tonight in what is probably the major leagues' most beautiful ballpark, where Barry Bonds used to lash his steroid-fuelled home runs into San Francisco Bay.
The city in question is Detroit, the team are San Francisco's hometown Giants. Six times in this frenetic baseball post-season they have played an elimination game, win or go home – and the Giants have stayed alive by taking every one of them.
In the best-of-five National League division series against the Cincinnati Reds, they lost the first two games at home before going to Cincinnati and reeling off three straight victories on the road.
The same thing happened again as the Giants came back from a 3-1 deficit to snatch the best-of-seven NL championship series from the previously indestructible St Louis Cardinals, World Series winners last year. The Giants kept hope alive with a 5-0 game five win in St Louis behind a masterful display of pitching guile by Barry Zito.
They tied up proceedings on Sunday and then applied the finishing touch on Monday evening with a 9-0 rout, sealed by a towering home run from Brandon Belt, struck into the right-field bleachers.
Over those last three games, they out-scored St Louis by 20-1. "These guys never quit," the Giants' manager Bruce Bochy said afterwards. "They just kept believing and they got it done."
And so too, but with far less drama, did the Detroit Tigers as they took the American League pennant from the New York Yankees in a four-game sweep.
So one-sided was the series that it will be remembered not for the Tigers' all-round excellence, led by baseball's most overpowering pitcher, Justin Verlander, and the game's best hitter, Miguel Cabrera, the first winner of the batting triple crown since 1967.
Instead, the 2012 American League play-offs will surely go down as the end of the latest Yankee dynasty – or rather what might have been a dynasty had Alex Rodriguez and a clutch of hitters, collectively paid over $100m (£62.5m) a year for their efforts, not failed so abysmally when it mattered most.
Not that the Detroit's owner Mike Ilitch has exactly played "Scrooge", signing free-agent slugger Prince Fielder in the 2011 close season in a $214m (£134m) nine-year deal, the fourth richest contract in baseball history.
Together, Cabrera (himself midway through an eight-year $153m – £95.5m – contract) and Fielder form perhaps the major leagues' most redoubtable hitting duo.
Those acquisitions were not, however, just to revive one of baseball's most venerable franchises, that had not won a World Series since 1984, and which in 2003 lost 117 regular-season games, a record for the American League. The resurgent Tigers would be symbol of a reborn Detroit – and with the revival of the Motor City's signature industry, that too may be starting to happen.
Six years ago, the Tigers reached the World Series, but were soundly defeated by the Cardinals. This time the foe in the sport's marquee event is San Francisco and the Tigers start as favourites.
They have better hitting, as well as a fearsome all-rightie pitching rotation, led by Verlander and Max Scherzer. Thanks to the quick despatch of the Yankees they have also had the luxury of five full days to prepare. But even a seven-game series is a lottery. In baseball, as in life, too much rest can do more harm than good. And this season has proved one thing above all... never, ever, count San Francisco out.
Latest in Sport
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Spanish club resume £28m pursuit after fending Manchester United off Sergio Ramos
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Transfer news live - Angel Di Maria to leave Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor to Aston Villa
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015 Third Test Day One report: England skittle Australia for 136, James Anderson takes six wickets, Ian Bell hits half-century
Nicolas Otamendi to Manchester United: Sergio Ramos is only defender of interest to Louis van Gaal
- 1 Australia to impose 24-hour curfew on all cats to protect endangered species
- 2 Model's video shoot on the beach interrupted by sudden landing of a group of illegal migrants
- 3 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 4 MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
- 5 'Killer robots' with AI must be banned, urge Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky and thousands of others in open letter
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Labour leadership contest: I would never quit the party, says Liz Kendall
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading indepen...
£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Systems Administrator is requ...
£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...