The 106th edition of the Fall Classic opens tonight in San Francisco with Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee set to take the mound for one of the most anticipated World Series pitching matchups in recent history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is just the third Game 1 World Series pitching matchup featuring a pair of pitchers who had already won a Cy Young Award. The others were last season, with CC Sabathia and Lee, and in 1995, with Greg Maddux and Orel Hershiser.
IMPORTANCE OF GAME 1
Recent history suggests that the winner tonight will have a significant edge in taking the series. Six of seven and 11 of the last 13 World Series champions have won Game 1. Overall, in the 101 previous best-of-seven World Series matchups, the Game 1 winner has won 63 of them, or 62.4 percent.
The Giants have won seven straight Game 1s, tied for the fourth-longest postseason streak all-time. And they’ve been even more dominant at home, having won four straight and eight of their last nine home Game 1s dating to the 1922 World Series.
The Rangers are 2-3 in their short Game 1 history. They split their two such games this postseason, winning on the road in the ALDS and losing at home in the ALCS.
LincecumWhen Lincecum throws the first pitch tonight, at age 26, he’ll be the third-youngest Giants pitcher to start Game 1 of a World Series. Only Jeff Tesreau, who was 24 when he started in the 1912 series, and Christy Mathewson, who was 25 when he started the first game in 1905, were younger.
Lincecum has little experience against any of the current Rangers. The only player expected to be in the lineup in Game 1 that he has faced is Vladimir Guerrero – who got a single off him in one at-bat during an Interleague game last season with the Angels.
Lincecum had one of the greatest postseason pitching performances in Game 1 of the NLDS, with a record-breaking 14-strikeout, 2-hit shutout of the Braves. While his second and third starts were still excellent, pitching seven innings while allowing three runs in each outing, he was clearly not as dominant.
One key area he has struggled with in his last two starts is with his fastball. In the NLDS, the Braves were helpless against the heater, missing on 55 percent of their swings and getting just one hit in 12 at-bats (.083) against the pitch. However, in his last two starts, the Phillies were not fooled, tagging him for nine hits in 20 at-bats (.450) ending on fastballs, including two doubles and two homers.
LeeLee will be taking the ball in Game 1 of the Fall Classic for the second straight year – last season he started for the Phillies and this time for Texas - becoming just the third starting pitcher to start a World Series Game 1 in consecutive years for different teams. The only others to do it were Jack Morris, for the Twins in 1991 and the Blue Jays in 1992, and Don Gullett, for the Reds in 1976 and the Yankees in 1977.
Lee has already established himself as one of the greatest pitchers in postseason history. Here’s a quick rundown of his postseason accomplishments over the past two years:
Lowest Career Postseason ERA
His career 1.26 postseason ERA ranks third among those who have made at least five starts, behind only Hall-of-Famers Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson.
Lee is the first pitcher with three straight 10+ K games in the same postseason, and is now tied with Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson for the most career 10-strikeout games in postseason history with five.
He is behind only Gibson in consecutive postseason starts won while pitching at least seven innings in each start. Gibson’s streak was seven, while Lee is tied with Dave Stewart and Red Ruffing with six such starts.
And Lee is one win away from having the most consecutive wins as a starter in postseason history. He’s got seven now, which is tied with Gibson, David Wells and Orel Hershiser, and one behind Orlando Hernandez.