Baseball: Detroit motor to World Series as battling Giants do it the hard way

 

Washington

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness