DETROIT-Just hours prior to World Series Game 3, Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera was presented the Hank Aaron Award by the man himself. But that was handed out for the regular season and in the World Series, the Venezuelan slugger has struggled. Down by a pair in the fifth inning with 42,262 fans on their feet at Comerica Park chanting “MVP MVP”, Cabrera came to the plate with the bases loaded and popped to short to end the threat. The Giants went on to win 2-0 behind Ryan Volgelsong and Tim Lincecum and take a three games to nothing. In Motown there's no tomorrow.
“Right now he's the best hitter in the game,”Vogelsong said. “I just tried to make pitches. It's a lot easier to face him in that situation when there's two outs. I was just trying to make a pitch. The way we were playing defense, 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, with the way these guys were all over the field.”
The Giants made more plays than did the Tigers. In the first they turned a nifty double play with two men on, started by Marco Scutaro. In the third they did it again. In the eighth, shortstop Brandon Crawford dove up the middle to rob Cabrera of a leadoff single and in the ninth, Angel Pagan raced into the left field corner to retire Jhonny Peralta.
“I'll tell you it's a critical part of the game,” Giants' manager Bruce Bochy said. “That's our strength, pitching and defence. They've done a great job. Blanco, just a tremendous job he's doing out in left field, including the ninth-inning making that catch. Crawford, Scutaro, all of them. We've been doing a good job of catching the ball. Defence can win games for you and I thought it did tonight.”
Somehow in other sports it seems simpler to overcome a three-game deficit in a best-of-seven series, than in major-league baseball. In basketball you throw out the same starting five, head-to-head each night as you attempt your comeback. In hockey, it's the same goalie and if he can just get hot, you'll have a chance. In baseball you need four different starting pitchers to out-pitch four other pitchers. That's why the MLB comeback from 0-3 has been done only once.
In fact, amazingly there have been 23 World Series in history where one team has taken a 3-0 lead in games. Of that total, 20 have resulted in four-game sweeps, including the last eight in a row, dating back to the 1970 Baltimore Orioles against the Pirates that went to five games. In none of the 23 series did the series go back to the other city – 20 sweeps and three that were over in five.
“It's a good situation but there's nothing been done yet,” Bochy insisted. “It's a number just like two. Now it's three. That's not the series. You have to keep going about your business as usual and not think about where you're at, but go out and try and win tomorrow. These guys have done a great job of that, whether they've been down like we have 0-2 or 3-1. We're up but there's still a lot of business at hand. These guys are keeping their focus and that's all you want them to do. I know when they hit the field tomorrow they won't think about where they're at right now in this situation.”
On Saturday, returning to Comerica where the Tigers had won all four playoff games this season, it was a must-win game given that only the '04 Red Sox had ever rebounded from a three-game deficit in , but you had to like their chances. Prior to the game, manager Jim Leyland had explained his approach in dealing with his players heading to Game 3.
“You don't really havetotellthemanything,” Tigers' manager Jim Leyland said. “They can count. There's no secret formulas or message for them. You don't think about the four. You think about one.”
The unheralded Vogelsong continued his mastery of October. The 35-year-old righthander went 5-2/3 shutout innings, allowing nine baserunners but always pitching himself out of trouble as with the fifth inning when he struck out Qunitin Berry with the bases loaded, then popped up Cabrera. The four straight games he has started with one or fewer runs allowed is the eighth time it has been done in the baseball post-season. It's only the third time it has been accomplished in the same playoffs. The first two were by Blue Moon Odom of the A's in1972 and by Burt Hooton of the Dodgers in 1981.
“You know, it's my first World Series,”Vogelsongexplained. “I've been waiting for this since I was five years old, and I wasn't going to go down without a fight, that's for sure.
“I didn't think my stuff was as good as it was in the NLCS, but I really just tried to hit Buster (Posey's) glove as many times as I could. I didn't think I was as sharp as I wanted to be, but when the guys are playing like that behind you, it encourages you to try and get the guys to hit the ball in play. I definitely wasn't happy with walking -- I think I walked four. But I wasn't happy about that.”
After a walk to Andy Dirks, Vogelsong, with two out in the sixth, handed it off to The Freak, who has excitingly reinvented himself in the post-season as an important long-relief man. Lincecum appeared in his fifth game (one start) in this post-season. In 13 innings, he has allowed one earned run on three hits with two walks and 17 strikeouts. That's a 0.69 ERA.
“Right now the bullpen role is for the World Series, and that's my mindset,”Lincecum said. “I'm just going to be out there as a safety net kind of thing, and if I can pick up innings here and there in these games, that's what I'm there to do. As I said, I'm just fortunate that I've been able to come out on the top side of these, and fortunate to come out on the back side of wins.”
It can't get any simpler than it is right now for Leyland's team, heading into Game 4 on Sunday night. Win or go home. They beat the A's in one of those elimination games in Game 5 of the ALDS, but to do it four straight times. That's a different story. They are hitting .165 as a team in the Series.
A key in all Giants game this 2012 post-season has been getting on the scoreboard first. Teams scoring first in playoff games involving the Giants were 12-2 heading into the Game 3. Once again, it was the Giants opening the scoring against Tigers' righthander Anibal Sanchez.
The ever-intense Hunter Pence walked leading off the second inning, then stole second as Brandon Belt was called out on strikes. With the infield in, Gregor Blanco crushed a flyball to the base of the fence in straightaway centre field, racing around for a standup triple. With two outs, shortstop Brandon Crawford then looped a single in front of Austin Jackson that made the score 2-0. Given the efficiency of Vogelsong this post season, that made it huge advantage Giants.
For the game facing Vogelsong and company, the Tigers were 0-for-4 with runners-in-scoring-position, including grounded-into-double-plays by Prince Fielder and Berry and a strikeout.
The Tigers have lost six World Series games in a row dating back to Game 3 of 2006.