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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence