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. 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 versus 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.
“I’ll have to learn a lot about them real soon, to be honest,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
“I know what a great club they are. And we know all about the guy we’re going to be facing opening day and their whole staff,” he said. “They swept the Yankees. That tells you how good they are.”
It’s certainly a unique pairing. 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 1997, 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 One 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.”
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. A month later, he was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for a positive testosterone test. He isn’t on the postseason roster.
The Giants bolstered their infield by trading for scrappy Marco Scutaro in late July, and he became the MVP of the NL championship series. They fortified their outfield a few days later by getting Pence from Philadelphia.