The Tigers are trying to turn around a trend. They were the sixth team since the expansion of the LCS to a best-of-seven in 1985 to sweep its opponent. Atlanta, which swept Cincinnati in the 1995 NLCS and then beat Cleveland in the World Series, is the only one of the previous five to win the World Series.
Is the extra time off an obstacle? It certainly puts a rotation out of whack. Verlander was starting on seven days of rest in Game 1. Fister will be working on 11 days of rest. Anibal Sanchez will be working on 12 days of rest in his Game 3 start on Saturday, and Max Scherzer will have had nine days between starts when he takes the mound in Game 4 on Sunday.
Two years ago, when the Giants were winning their first World Series since moving from New York in 1958, Sandoval spent most of the postseason on the bench, amid concerns that in only his second year in the big leagues, the third baseman, currently listed as weighing 240 pounds, was eating his way into oblivion.
What a difference two years makes. Rest assured, Sandoval, more than anybody on the Giants, got the Tigers' attention in Game 1, and he will be a focal point in Game 2. While Zito provided stability on the mound, Sandoval became the fourth player to hit three home runs in a World Series game.
He also became only the fourth player to hit two home runs in a Major League game against Verlander. Nick Swisher did it while with Oakland in 2006. Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox and Shelly Duncan of Cleveland equaled he feat in 2011, each hitting homers in successive at-bats against Verlander.
Kung Fu Panda, as Sandoval is affectionately known, is certainly hot. After being limited to three World Series at-bats as a designated hitter in Game 3 against Texas two years ago -- capping a 3-for-19 postseason in which he had no home runs and two RBIs -- he is hitting .370 this postseason with six home runs and 13 RBIs in 13 games.
Zito shut down the Tigers in Game 1. Madison Bumgarner gets the challenge in Game 2. Bumgarner has been struggling, and was removed from the rotation in favor of Tim Lincecum in Game 4 of the NLCS. Word was his mechanics were so out of whack that the Giants didn't believe he could be straightened out until he could work on them in game situations next spring.
Just the same, manager Bruce Bochy decided to start Bumgarner in Game 2 instead of Lincecum, who struck out five in 2 1/3 perfect innings of relief in Game 1. The Tigers can't be too happy. They are 29-27 in games started by left-handed opponents this year, including the postseason.
Bumgarner has challenges of his own. He has worked only eight innings in his first two starts this postseason, allowing 10 runs on 15 hits and two walks. Including the regular season, he's reached six innings once in his past six starts.
Will Jose Valverde disappear again? After working a shutout inning against Oakland in his first Division Series appearance this year, Valverde has allowed 11 runs, nine earned, in 1 2/3 innings over three subsequent appearances. He retired only one of the five batters he faced in Game 1 of the World Series.
His fastball was clocked at 94 mph, a 4-mph increase from his previous appearance. But the more telling thing in regard to Leyland's confidence in Valverde is that the appearance was his first since Game 1 of the ALCS, when the blew that four-run lead to the Yankees.
Yes, he has 84 regular-season saves the past two years, but his 3.78 ERA and 27 walks in 69 innings were concerning. And those numbers, combined with the postseason stumbles, led Leyland to turn to lefty Phil Coke in late innings during the ALCS. Coke has worked 7 1/3 shutout innings in the postseason, but it is hard to ignore the fact that during the regular season he had a 4.00 ERA and a .324 batting average against, including .396 against right-handers.
The Giants are starting to get comfortable at home again. Their 48-33 record at AT&T Park was only the ninth-best regular-season home record in the Majors. But they won eight of their last 10 regular season home games, and after losing two Division Series games against Cincinnati and one against St. Louis in the NLCS, the Giants have won their last three at AT&T.
The Tigers, meanwhile, have had their troubles on the road. They went 38-43 outside of Comerica Park during the regular season, which ranked 15th among Major League teams, and they are 3-3 on the road this postseason. They are 4-0 at Comerica Park.