When the 2012 World Series began the Detroit Tigers were a sizable betting favorite to win. Their ace, Justin Verlander, had been unhittable in the postseason. More importantly, they’d swept the swooning New York Yankees in the previous round while the Giants needed seven games to dispatch the St. Louis Cardinals. This was significant not so much because of the ‘rest’ they were afforded but because it allowed them to ‘reset’ their pitching rotation.
In other words, the Tigers entered the World Series with their pitching rotation set up just the way they wanted with Verlander starting Game 1. The Giants didn’t have that luxury–since they needed ‘all hands on deck’ to eliminate the Cards their pitching staff was ‘upside down’. Barry Zito was forced into service for Game #1 with Madison Bumgarner set for Game #2. Zito had been erratic for much of the regular season while Bumgarner hadn’t pitched since early October.
Despite this huge tactical edge, the Tigers find themselves in a ‘must win’ situation as they return to Motown for Game 3. Verlander was shelled in his appearance and both Zito and Bumgarner pitched well. Now the Giants hold a 2-0 lead and will now have the top of their pitching rotation facing the bottom half of the Tigers’ staff. Ryan Vogelsong will start Game 3 for San Francisco facing Anabal Sanchez, and Giants’ ace Matt Cain will pitch Game 4 against Max Scherzer.
Some baseball experts are suggesting that the Tigers were a beneficiary of an unprecedented collapse by the New York Yankees. In other words, the Yankees were so bad that they made the Tigers look better than they really are. Now the Tigers aren’t hitting and the Giants are. The Giants have their pitching staff set up perfectly, have a potential Game 6 and 7 at home and have punctured Verlander’s ‘aura of invincibility’.
The series is far from over but Detroit is in a ‘must win’ situation. There’s only been 7 teams in World Series history to drop the first two games on the road and come back to win the series. And although an 0-3 comeback in baseball isn’t unprecedented there’s never been a team to do it in the World Series.