Are the Tigers finished? History says no

Christian Petersen

The Giants dominated the Tigers in Game 1. Does this mean Detroit's done for the Series? Hardly.

It's the World Series. And the Detroit Tigers started a pitcher in Game 1 who is arguably the best pitcher in the American League. That pitcher proceeded to get hit hard by his opponents, and the Tigers lost Game 1 convincingly.

Wednesday night, right?

Wrong. I'm talking about Game 1 of the 1935 World Series. And Game 1 of the 1945 World Series. And Game 1 of the 1968 World Series... all lost by the Tigers.

Those games were, in some ways, even more lopsided than what the San Francisco Giants did to Justin Verlander and the Tigers Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

The 1935 Tigers led the American League in runs scored -- by almost 100 runs. The Cubs' Lon Warneke, a very good pitcher but probably not even the best hurler on his team, shut them out on four hits, defeating Schoolboy Rowe, who had led the AL in shutouts.

The 1945 Tigers started Hal Newhouser in Game 1. Newhouser, the Verlander of his day, led the AL in just about every pitching category you could think of that year. He had 10.5 WAR (2 more than any other player and 4 more than any other pitcher) and won 29 games for the second straight year. He was the American League's MVP. The Cubs raked him for eight hits and seven runs and knocked him out of the game in the third inning.

The 1968 Tigers led the AL in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. Denny McLain won 31 games with a 1.96 ERA, and garnered both Cy Young and MVP honors. Starting Game 1, he lasted five innings and gave up three hits, three walks and three runs; the Cardinals' Bob Gibson struck out 17, still a World Series record. Detroit lost 4-0.

What else happened in all three of those World Series? The Tigers came back and won the Series: in six games in 1935; and seven in 1945 and 1968. In '68, Detroit came back from a three-games-to-one deficit, just as the Giants did in this year's NLCS.

Rob Neyer wrote about just how unusual Pablo Sandoval's three-homer game was, not only in World Series history, but because of the type of hitter Sandoval was during the season, and because of the park he hit the homers in.

And in the same way, we might look at Detroit's loss, the same way someone in 1935 or 1945 or 1968 might have done, and think that's also an outlier. (In two of those three years -- 1935 and 1945 -- the Tigers had a worse regular-season record than their World Series opponent, as this year's Tigers also have.)

Of course, past performances in World Series by players long retired or deceased don't predict current results. And eight of the last nine teams to win Game 1 of the World Series went on to win the series (the exception: the 2009 Phillies).

But if you think this World Series is over because the best pitcher in baseball got hit unusually hard in Game 1, think again. That's why you have to win four games.

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