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Styles clash for Verlander, Zito in Game 1

10/24/2012

The World Series begins Wednesday between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants (ESPN Radio, 8 ET), and while neither team can clinch anything in one contest, Game 1 has had plenty of meaning in recent years.

The winner of Game 1 has won eight of nine and 13 of the last 15 World Series. There have been 103 best-of-7 World Series, and the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 63.1 percent of the time. Having home-field advantage also has been critical, as the team with home-field in the World Series is 21-5 since 1985. That win by the National League in the All-Star Game could be key for the Giants.

Here is a look at the Game 1 pitching matchup between the Tigers’ Justin Verlander and the Giants’ Barry Zito:

Verlander Heating Up

There may not be a hotter pitcher in baseball right now than Verlander. In his last seven starts (regular season and postseason), the Detroit ace is 7-0 with a 0.69 ERA. That includes two victories over the Oakland Athletics in the AL Division Series and a dominant effort against the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series in which he allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings.

Justin Verlander Career vs NL

Verlander has been especially dominant in interleague play. He is the all-time leader in win percentage in interleague games, but he has struggled when facing the NL in the World Series and All-Star Game. He has more losses in those games than in interleague games, despite making 22 more starts in interleague play.

Zito Surging Late

It has been a tale of two seasons for Zito, who makes his World Series debut tonight after being left off the Giants postseason roster in 2010. Zito had a 4.42 ERA and .268 opponent batting average with runners on through the end of August, but since then he is 6-0 with a 2.74 ERA and a .152 opponent batting average with men on base.

Barry Zito With Men On Base
2012 Reg Season and Postseason

One reason for Zito’s success is his increased usage of the curveball, his most effective pitch. Zito’s fastball, which averaged just 83.8 miles per hour this season, is very hittable. In fact, there is a major difference between his heater and Verlander’s, which averaged 94.2 on the gun this year. The difference of 10.4 miles per hour is the highest in a postseason game in the last four seasons.

Odds And Ends

*The Tigers are 2-7-1 all-time in Game 1 of World Series, while the Giants are 11-7 all-time in World Series openers.

*Prince Fielder makes his first World Series appearance, while Miguel Cabrera becomes the fourth Triple Crown winner to play in the World Series.

*Pablo Sandoval has an RBI in each of his last five games, tied with Barry Bonds for longest streak in Giants postseason history.