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The Prince and The Panda

The World Series seems to be ending barely before it got started. The National League champion San Francisco Giants are up by an overwhelming 3-games-to-none over the American League champion Detroit Tigers after another brilliant display of pitching and defense led to a 2-0 shutout, the first time a team has hurled consecutive shutouts in the World Series since the 1966 Baltimore Orioles defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Orioles blanked the Dodgers three consecutive games en route to a sweep). We appear be on the verge of another sweep, the first since the Boston Red Sox dispatched the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The Giants, 2010 World Series Champions, have some familiar faces from that team but more importantly they have those faces in different and surprising roles.

Game Four starter Matt Cain was a bulwark of the 2010 pitching staff in the post-season, posting a 2-0 record and allowing no earned runs in over twenty-one innings pitched; this year has been a bit more a grab-bag for him, he is 2-2 but more to the point he was impregnable in the seventh game of the NLCS versus the St. Louis Cardinals and one would think he is going to be on his game tonight as the Giants look to clinch their second World Series Championship in three years.

In 2010 Tim Lincecum was the ace of the Giants’ staff, going 4-1 and winning the opener and the clincher against the Texas Rangers. Lincecum had a dreadful year in 2012, leading all starters in highest ERA; he was placed in the bullpen, but seems revived now and has been a deadly weapon in relief in Games One and Three. Barry Zito, signed to a horrendous seven-year contract following the 2006 series, actually posted a winning record this year for the first time since 2006, and more importantly he kept the Giants alive in Game Five of their set with the Cardinals and he baffled the Tigers in Game One with his slow-slower-slowest collection of junk and slop. He wasn’t even on the roster in 2010.

And Pablo Sandoval, the rotund, fun-loving “Kung Fu Panda”, who merited only one start in the 2010 Fall Classic, etched his name in the history books with three home runs in his first three at-bats powering the Giants to victory in Game One. Sandoval joins Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols on a very short list of October heroes.

Alas, for the Tigers their formidable offense has found no traction. Their major acquisition last off-season, another player known for his girth and prodigious hitting feats, Prince Fielder, has been shackled by Giants pitching to a 1-for-10 showing so far. The imposing heart of the order for the Bengals, Fielder and Triple Crown Champion Miguel Cabrera, have been unable to find the timely hit. The story may not end tonight, but the road ahead for the Tigers is steep indeed.

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