1. Coach’s heads-up play
Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly missed the first two games of the NLCS because of a concussion. Now that his team is in the World Series, they’re certainly happy to have him back.
Kelly’s guidance came in handy in the top of the third inning when Angel Pagan’s ground ball to third base bounced off the bag and out of Miguel Cabrera’s reach. Pagan, running through the bag thinking the play would result in a routine ground out, changed his direction when Kelly, screaming like a mad man, signaled him to second base.
The move paid off when Marco Scutaro, the hottest Giants hitter throughout the post-season, singled and scored Pagan from second base for the second run of the game.
2. Starting the runner
Nothing kills a rally quicker than a double play, which is exactly why Bruce Bochy likes to stay out of them.
With Brandon Belt on first base and Brandon Crawford at the plate, with one out in the bottom of the fourth, the Giants manager put Belt in motion on the pitch. Crawford grounded out, but Belt’s running start allowed him to get to second safely.
Bochy’s decision proved to be a wise one. The next batter, Barry Zito, singled to plate Belt for the fifth Giants run of the night.
The Giants had scored three runs off Justin Verlander in the third inning, and, after Zito’s eight-pitch top of the fourth, they were given the perfect opportunity to keep pouncing on the struggling righty. By starting the runner, they did just that.
3. Leaving Verlander
Maybe it was the extra days of rest, or the boisterous crowd at AT&T Park.
Whatever it was, Justin Verlander didn’t look like the ace he’s been so far this post-season in Game 1 of the World Series.
After a shaky start from the 29-year-old, including a horrible third inning that sent seven Giants batters to the plate, with three crossing it, perhaps Jim Leyland left him in too long.
With his pitch count climbing rapidly (70 pitches through three innings), Verlander unwisely was sent back to the mound to start the fourth, where he walked a batter and gave up a single and a run in his last inning of work.
In total, Verlander allowed five runs on six hits through 98 pitches in four innings.
4. Blanco’s diving catch
Down 6-1 in the top of the sixth inning, and with Miguel Cabrera waiting on first base, all Prince Fielder had to do to get the Tigers back into the game was put the ball in play.
And, for what it’s worth, he certainly tried.
Fielder, coming into the World Series hitting .235 against the Yankees in the ALCS, was robbed of a base hit (or more) by Gregor Blanco, who dove to make his second highlight-reel catch of the night in left field.
Blanco’s terrific grab stung the Tigers even more when the next batter, Jhonny Peralta, hit a single that surely would have scored at least one much-needed run for the visiting team had Fielder’s line drive dropped.
5. Giving Valverde another shot
No one’s really sure why Jose Valverde has fallen so mightily from his 2011 form, but maybe it’s time for Leyland to just stop putting him in.
Though the 34-year-old was sent to the mound in a low-leverage situation — his team down 6-1 in the seventh — Valverde lasted just one-third of an inning, giving up two runs on four hits
And with Tim Lincecum shutting down the Tigers on his end, Valverde’s mistakes dug Detroit further into a predicament from which they could not escape.
Before Wednesday, Valverde hadn’t been used since Game 1 of the ALCS against New York, where he spoiled a four-run Tigers lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Perhaps the stakes are too high for Leyland to be experimenting with his former closer now.