Way back in spring training, Hunter Pence hit a wicked grounder that smacked Miguel Cabrera in the face. A few months later, Pablo Sandoval launched a bases-loaded triple off Justin Verlander in the All-Star Game.
Here they all are again, with everything at stake. Tigers-Giants in the World Series.
A driven team from Detroit, loaded with power bats and arms, guided by wily Jim Leyland and coming off an impressive sweep of the New York Yankees. A surging squad from San Francisco, boosted by its rotation and talented catcher Buster Posey, fresh from a Game 7 win over defending champion the St. Louis Cardinals.
A Triple Crown winner in Cabrera vs. a perfect game pitcher in Matt Cain. The Motor City vs. the City by the Bay, starting with Game 1 on Wednesday in the California twilight.
A unique pairing, too. Both franchises have been around for well over a century and are stacked with Hall of Famers — Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Carl Hubbell, Al Kaline and many more — yet they’ve never faced each other in the postseason.
Not too much recent history, either. The clubs have played only 12 games since interleague action began in 1995, most recently last year at Comerica Park. That series was notable because the Tigers fired pitching coach Rick Knapp following the final game, a day after Barry Zito and the Giants trounced Max Scherzer in a 15-3 romp.
“From Day 1 of spring training, we’re getting ready for this,” Giants center fielder Angel Pagan said. “We’re going to be ready. We’re going to just keep playing baseball like we do.”
Leyland has certainly had time to prepare for this matchup — not that it’s a good thing. The Tigers will have had five days off since dismantling the Yankees.
The Tigers also had nearly a week off before starting the 2006 World Series, and the team from the Rust Belt looked rusty. Detroit pitchers made five errors in a five-game wipeout by the Cardinals.