Well. There's no way around this. This is a preview of Game 1 of the World Series, it's about the Giants and the Tigers, and there are a combined 50 players who will be involved. But all I can think of is this:
It's the World Series, and the San Francisco Giants are playing the Verlandertown Verlanders of Verlander. The prediction is partly Verlander with a chance of heavy Verlander. Also, the Tigers have some guy who won the Triple Crown, but Verlander.
So here's a preview of Game 1. It starts with Verlander, and it ends with Verlander. There are two obvious talking points for the overly optimistic.
The reason the Giants have home-field advantage is because three of the Giants in the All-Star Game lineup whapped Justin Verlander around.
This is true! Melky Cabrera roped a single to left, Buster Posey eked out a tough walk, and Pablo Sandoval tripled, possibly because Jose Bautista was in the bathroom at the time, I can't remember. When the dust settled, the National League had five runs and home-field advantage.
Matt Cain pitched two scoreless innings, you know.
So there's that. If you want a completely illegitimate reason to feel confident against Verlander, have at it. Three Giants reached base against him in an exhibition game! Wheeeeeee! Oh, and one of those players isn't even on the Giants anymore because he's in FEDERAL PRISON, which is the only way it makes sense for him to be left off the World Series roster, so it must be true. So if a Posey walk and a Sandoval triple in an exhibition game from July is all it takes for you to feel confident, that's awesome. I wish I could do that. I wish I could create some sort of chemical in a lab that made you feel like that. $$$.
But the All-Star Game isn't totally meaningless. It's a reminder that baseball can make you say, "Boy! I sure wasn't expecting that exact permutation of baseball-related events!" There was a game when Justin Verlander got hit, and Giants were involved. Barry Zito shut down the Cardinals on the road last week. Down is up, up is down, and sometimes you're humming "THIS TRAAAAAIN" because you subconsciously like it. Baseball takes a lot of delight in running contrary to expectations.
Cliff Lee! Roy Halladay!
The Giants beat Cliff Lee twice in the 2010 World Series. Before the series, Lee was supposed to be Sandy Koufax pitching from a mound six feet high and 15 feet away. Then stuff happened, the sun rose, and the sun set, the world spun, and now the Giants can beat Justin Verlander for some reason. There's a definite underwear-gnome quality to this logic.
Again, though, I'll allow it. Because the template isn't the first Lee start, where he didn't have his curveball and melted into a puddle of goo and rosin. The template for beating a scary, dominant ace can be found in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, when Lee was at the top of his game. He was shutting the Giants down, inning after inning. He looked like the pitcher we were supposed to be scared of. But two things happened:
2. Equally strong pitching from the Giants
The weirdness is defined as such: Cody Ross got a single after being down 0-2, Juan Uribe got a hit on the worst 0-2 pitch of Cliff Lee's life, and Edgar Renteria hit the first home run of his career. That kind of stuff happens to every pitcher, just not often. You can't expect it. But you can't be surprised by it either.
Okay, maybe a little surprised.
The same thing happened with Roy Halladay, who was coming off a no-hitter against the Reds in the division series. He was supposed to be a devourer of worlds, but he threw two pitches that Cody Ross could handle. That's all it takes. And Barry Zito is basically the same pitcher as 2010 Tim Lincecum, right? Both pitchers have won Cy Youngs in the past, so it's pretty much a wash. The Giants got weirdness against Lee and Halladay, and there was good pitching to back it up.
There's no way to feel comfortable about Verlander, though. I don't care what mental gymnastics you have to go through with the All-Star Game or your 2010 memories of Lee/Halladay. Verlander is the perfect pitcher. He is better at everything than every other pitcher in baseball. He throws harder, his pitches break more, and he commands them better. I you play this game 100 times, the Tigers win it 60 or 70 times.
Which means we're rooting for an outcome that's somewhere between Brandon Crawford getting on base and Buster Posey getting on base. And that's something we do every game. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually it doesn't. But it does often enough to root for good things without feeling like a total fool.
Besides, the Giants have beat Verlander in AT&T Park before. Keiichi Yabu got the win. Fred Lewis hit a home run off Verlander. No, really:
This GIF is the good-luck charm of the Giants fan. Sometimes Justin Verlander is a six-dimensional demi-god from a parallel universe. Sometimes he gives up home runs to Fred Lewis. This is because baseball is on bath salts and crouching behind a dumpster. This is the game the Giants are supposed to lose. That almost makes me feel more comfortable.
Don't forget about TiqIQ for tickets to the games! If you wanted to buy tickets for me as an appreciation for all of my hard work here, that would be awesome, for example.