All Hail, Iron Hat. Way to set the tone. Reyes played the stopper role of 8 straight World Series road games lost, and is the hero of game 1. And in even more irony, the rookie Reyes helped LaRussa win his first World Series game since 10/28/89. But in the first inning, things looked rough for Reyes. I didn't count the number of changeups he threw in the first inning, but it was far too many. The Tiger hitters were sitting on them all the way, and things looked primed for a possible big inning after scoring a run and having runners on 2nd and 3rd. Reyes fortunately got out of the jam on a 'sliner' of the bat of Pudge to Belliard. Looking at that inning, I was afraid it might be a short night for Reyes. His fastball, according to the normally juiced Fox radar guns was topping out at 85 and those changeups weren't hitting the targets. (I think that gun was off, it had the hard-throwing Verlander topping out at 88). Then the Fox cameras panned over to the dugout during the top of the 2nd, and there you saw Dave Duncan, the "pitcher whisperer" as beatwriter Bernie Miklasz calls him, speaking to Reyes about what he needed to different. ie "ditch that changeup boy, or you'll walk home to St. Louis!" The result? Reyes sat down the next 16 Tigers in a row, 19 out of the next 20, almost completely reliant on his fastball. Whatever nervousness he had appeared to be long gone, as Reyes was hitting his spots with near pinpoint command. Through innings 2 through 8, Reyes threw 53 strikes to 14 balls. The Tigers didn't strike any ball with real authority, other then the ball hit to the track by Pudge and Monroe's HR, hitting mostly weak pop-ups, 9 of them caught by infielders. Maybe the lay off was a factor there; the Tiger hitters were not the most patient bunch last night. This was the first time in posteason history that 2 rookies squared off, and Anthony did the Birds on the Bat proud, out-dueling the likely AL ROY Justin Verlander.
Verlander, who's stuff certainly qualifies as "electric", was squarely beaten, mostly by the MV3 looking to redeem themselves for their no-show against Boston. Pujols-Edmonds-Rolen went 6 for 45 in the 04 Series, this game they went 5 for 11 with 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 runs scored and a walk. Rolen homered to tie the game, and looks to me like he's back. Pujols had his 2 run shot with a base open, in what turned out to be a regrettable decision by Jim Leyland. Pujols was looking fastball outside all the way, after his first at bat where Verlander started him with an outside fastball before striking him out with a curve inside. I don't know if I can fault Leyland for making the decision, Verlander looked so strong against Albert their first go 'round. But Albert is The Machine. I'm gonna sound like a total dork here, but I'm sure many of you that have kids have seen the movie The Incredibles. Albert is like that psycho-learning fighting robot thing; the more you fight it the more he learns your moves and can counter you all the harder. And for at least tonight, Verlander was no Mr. Incredible. But from seeing his stuff, I can't say I'm looking forward his next outing.
1 down, 3 more to go. But the road ain't easy. '68 the Cards won games 1, 3, and 4 and then went on to lose the 5-7 to the Tigers. And this '06 version looked pretty tame after losing game one to the heavily favored Yanks before winning their next 7 to get here. This team still has a lot of fight in it, I'm just glad the Cards could set the tone by punching the big boy square on the jaw. Now it's time to brace ourselves and see how well the Tigers can counter.
A few other li'l bullets:
- I was born in Michigan; my first MLB game ever was at ol' Tiger Stadium in '86. Loved it. Still consider myself to be a (very) secondary Tiger fan, this series is a dream come true for me. And I have family pulling for the Tigers, so I mean this only in fun-but was Cats in town? Because every time we got a crowd shot, it was painted faces and kitty ears. I understand some of the kids and ladies doing it, but there was way too many grown men with makeup on out there. We Card fans have weirdness of our own, so much so there's a new hoosier highlighted every week or so. So I guess I can't really talk.
- Anyone else see the American Idol commercial that showed a scorecard with the Mets playing the Tigers? Even karaoke contests aren't giving the Cardinals their respect.
- Eight of the last nine teams to lose game 1 have gone on to lose the World Series. The exception? The '02 Angels, who were coming off 5 days rest. Hmm.
- And the Academy Award for Purposefully Running into the Third Baseman in Order to Get an Obstruction Call goes to...Scott Rolen! Acting!
Cardnilly is right, these Tigers are hard team to dislike. As I stated, this really is a dream series for me, as I didn't just grow up rooting for only for Ozzie, Willie and Jack the Ripper, but also Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. I grew up more much more with the Cards then the Tigers, but I've always had a spot in my heart for Detroit and I'd keep my eye on them. While that soft spot may be there, I'm relishing in the chance that somehow these Birds win this whole thing in front of the home crowd. Hat's off to the kid with the flat hat and high socks, and the MV3 for making that a real possibility. Though that should certainly prove difficult.