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 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 St. Louis.
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.
Much has changed since then.
Prince Fielder arrived in Detroit this year after a season-ending injury to Victor Martinez, and teamed with Cabrera as a most formidable tandem in the middle of the lineup.
Melky Cabrera joined the Giants and won MVP honors at the All-Star game. But he was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball a month later for a positive testosterone test, and isn’t on the postseason roster.
The Giants bolstered their infield by trading for scrappy Marco Scutaro in late July and fortified their outfield a few days later by getting Pence from Philadelphia.
Earlier this year, Pence’s bad-hop grounder broke a bone below Cabrera’s eye and caused a bloody gash that needed eight stitches to close. Cabrera recovered fine, and will be the first Triple Crown winner to play in the World Series since Carl Yastrzemski and Boston lost in 1967.
There’s been a lot of shuffling in the bullpens this year.
Closer Brian Wilson helped San Francisco win the 2010 World Series, but is out this season because of an elbow injury. The bearded reliever became a loud cheerleader in the dugout as the Giants overcame a 2-0 deficit against Cincinnati in the best-of-five division series, then rallied from a 3-1 hole to beat the Cardinals in the NL championship series.
San Francisco closed out the Cards 9-0 on Monday night, getting the final out in a driving rainstorm at AT&T Park.