A Cy Young winning night in Game 1 of the World Series

Game 1 of the 2012 World Series featured three Cy Young Award winners, and one of them got rocked.

San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito tips is hat to the crowd after being removed from the game during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball’s World Series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It wasn’t Barry Zito.

It wasn’t Tim Lincecum.

It was Justin Verlander.

On an amazing night at AT&T Park, Zito had another amazing outing. Zito gave up one run on six hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings, striking out three.

Zito didn’t want to come out with two outs in the sixth, after throwing 81 pitches.

Eighty-one pitches to get through almost six innings?!?!? From Zito!?!? He needed 76 to get through 2 2/3 in Cincinnati two weeks ago.

But in the past two postseason starts, Zito has been efficient with his pitches. He’s stayed in the strike zone, pitched to contact and trusted his defense.

On Wednesday, they helped him out. Gregor Blanco made two very nice sliding catches on sinking liners off the bat of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. He got Dmitri Young to hit into a double play with a chop off the plate that was fielded nicely by Buster Posey.

When Zito averages fewer than four pitches per batter faced, good things happen.

In Game 5 of the NLCS, he averaged 3.97 pitches per batter. In Game 1 of the World Series, it was 3.52. In Game 4 of the NLDS vs. the Reds, it was 4.75.

In his final five starts of the regular season (all Zito wins, four of which were quality starts, the other one out from a quality start), Zito averaged 4.15, 3.81, 3.54, 3.78 and 3.88.

And then there was Tim Lincecum, who retired all seven batters he faced in 2 1/3 innings of relief, striking out five of them.

In Lincecum’s one postseason start, he gave up four runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. In his four postseason relief appearances, he’s given up one run on three hits with one walk and 14 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings pitched.

“For me, it’s just getting mentally locked in,” Lincecum said. “When I’m starting, I fall off. I start thinking about the wrong things. When I’m in the bullpen, I’m just out there, just thinking about getting outs.”

Clearly, the bullpen is the place for the Freak this October. And Bochy was brilliant to leave him there.

If there was one complaint about Bochy’s usage of Lincecum, it’s that I would have rather seen Lincecum not used in Game 1 to nurse a 6-1 lead when there were only 10 outs to get.

I felt like the Giants could have managed the relief innings Wednesday with the likes of George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Jose Mijares and Santiago Casilla.

I would have felt much better with the Freak in the pen in Game 2, behind the out-of-whack Madison Bumgarner.

After Lincecum had only needed 19 pitches to get four outs, I thought Bochy should have gone to another reliever after the Giants added some insurance runs. But Lincecum came back for the eighth. Apparently Bochy made a commitment not to use Lincecum on back-to-back days, however many pitches he used.

But Bochy’s thought process probably was that it was better to use a committee of 4-5 relievers in the event of another meltdown by MadBum in Game 2, given the day off on Friday, than to use the pen heavy in Game 1.

We’ll see if he’s right.

Or ever better, we won’t have to see … provided that Bumgarner can give the Giants 5 or 6 quality innings. But that’s something we haven’t seen a lot of in the past two months.

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