DETROIT – The San Francisco Giants are cruising through the World Series thanks to some historic pitching. It has suddenly turned the Detroit Tigers’ offense into, well, the New York Yankees.
Starter Ryan Vogelsong threw 5∏ innings and combined with two relievers on a five-hitter Saturday night as the Giants posted their second straight 2-0 victory over the Tigers before a chilled and surly crowd of 42,262 in Comerica Park.
The Giants lead the series, three games to none, and can wrap up their second title in three years with a win tonight at 8:15 (Ch. 29). And they’ve got the right guy on the mound as ace Matt Cain – who won 16 games and threw a perfect game in the regular season – pitches against Detroit’s Max Scherzer.
The Giants are on one of the most incredible runs in postseason history. They have won six straight games, over the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit, by a combined score of 32-4. Their starters have an 0.47 earned-run average in those games and 0.49 in the World Series.
San Francisco pitching has rung up the first back-to-back shutouts in Series play since Baltimore blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final three games in 1966. The last National League team to throw consecutive shutouts was all the way back in 1919, when Cincinnati did it against the Chicago White Sox.
And, remember, those White Sox were actually the Black Sox who were famously throwing that series.
The Tigers are batting .165 in the series and have been blanked in consecutive games for the first time since 2008. Detroit, which had endured just two shutouts all season, never trailed for a single inning in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees but has never led in this series.
Vogelsong, re-signed by his original organization last year after bouncing around Triple-A and Japan for four years, is 3-0 in this postseason with a 1.09 ERA. That’s the lowest by a pitcher throwing at least 34 innings since Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers posted a 1.05 mark in 1988.
“It’s my first World Series. I’ve been waiting for this since I was 5 years old,” Vogelsong said. “I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, that’s for sure.”
The Giants got their runs in the second off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez as Gregor Blanco drove an RBI triple to the gap in right-center with one out, and No. 9 hitter Brandon Crawford got a clutch hit with two out by looping an RBI single to center.
“It’s the type of game you like to win because of how close it was, and both pitchers were on top of their game,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. But again, it starts with our starter, who just did a tremendous job for us.”
The Giants have obviously pitched great, but they’ve also been stellar defensively and have gotten just enough offense.
“It seems everybody is in the right place,” said outfielder Hunter Pence. “We’re pitching great, but we still know they’ve got great hitters too.”
On paper that may be true. But the Tigers appear doomed. No team has ever wiped out a 3-0 deficit in the World Series, and 20 of the 23 to fall into that hole have been swept. Even worse, eight straight teams down, 3-0, have lost Game Four. The last one to win Game Four was the 1970 Cincinnati Reds against Baltimore. No 3-0 team has ever pushed the series even to Game Six.
The Tigers’ major offenders are their big bats, which are as cold as the 47-degree weather that greeted the teams for the first pitch. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is 2 for 9 in the series. Cleanup man Prince Fielder is 1-10, striking out twice Saturday and killing a first-inning threat by grounding into a double play. ALCS hero and ex-Bisons shortstop Jhonny Peralta is 1 for 11.
Cabrera bolted the clubhouse before reporters were allowed inside. Fielder had few explanations.
“They’re just getting us out. If I knew what it was, we wouldn’t do it,” Fielder said. “I definitely didn’t sit at home thinking about two shutouts in the World Series. It just happened.”
“We got a tremendous pitching effort,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “But we’ve been shut out for 18 innings so it’s pretty hard to win a game.”
Vogelsong’s biggest inning was the fifth, when the Tigers loaded the bases with one out but didn’t score. Quinton Berry struck out, and Cabrera popped out to short, slamming his bat in digust as he trotted down the first-base line.
“It’s a lot easier to face him in that situation when there’s two outs,” Vogelsong said. “I was just trying to make a pitch, and the way we were playing defense, really just trying to get him to put a ball in play somewhere, because I had a good feeling we were going to catch it if he did.”
Detroit’s offensive futility is oddly reminiscent to the ALCS, when the Tigers swept the Yankees by posting a 0.66 ERA from their starters and holding the Yankees to a .157 batting average and no runs in 36 of 39 innings.
Vogelsong got two key double-play balls early to keep the Tigers at bay. Detroit had runners at first and second in the first when Fielder ended that rally, and Berry bounced into another one in the third.
“I thought we had Ryan on the ropes a couple times tonight,” Leyland said. “We couldn’t get the killer hit, the killer blow.”
Vogelsong joined Oakland’s Blue Moon Odom (1972) and Los Angeles’ Burt Hooton (1981) as the only pitchers to make four straight starts in a postseason allowing one run or none. He got great relief from Tim Lincecum, who threw 2∑ shutout innings, and a 1-2-3 ninth from closer Sergio Romo.
In the late innings, the crowd was booing. Loudly. It was just like Yankee Stadium in the ALCS.
Detroit fans sense this thing is just about over.
“[Three wins] is just a number, just like I said about two,” Bochy said. “Now it’s three. But that’s not the series. So you have to keep going about your business as usual.”
“It’s in reach. You can feel it,” Romo said. “We’re in the position we’ve believed we should be in all season.”