Giants shut out Tigers again in Game 3
OK, so even Bruce Bochy has to grudgingly admit that his San Francisco Giants are on a World Series roll.
''I'll say this: The club is playing well,'' the manager said.
Well enough to become the first team to throw consecutive Series shutouts in nearly a half-century.
Well enough to blank Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on a chilly Saturday night for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Well enough to win their franchise-record sixth straight postseason game and never trail in any in any of them.
''I think confidence is the biggest thing,'' newly found ace reliever Tim Lincecum said.
No team has ever blown such a huge margin in the World Series. And with the way Ryan Vogelsong, Lincecum and the Giants are pitching, it seemed unlikely the Tigers would even score a run, yet alone win a game.
Cabrera had the best chance to save the Tigers' season, but the Triple Crown winner popped up with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
Gregor Blanco hit an RBI triple and trotted home on Brandon Crawford's single in the second inning, and that was ample for the Giants. Timely hits combined with another dominant effort on the mound and sharp defense put them close to their second title in three years.
After playing a nearly perfect Game 3, the Giants will turn to Mr. Perfect Game himself - ace Matt Cain - to try for a sweep Sunday against Max Scherzer.
''We've got Matt Cain tomorrow and he's the guy to finish this,'' Blanco said.
At this rate, it appeared only a bailout by the San Francisco staff could help the Motor City.
Don't count on it. Switching to an AL park, chilly weather and a crowd of towel-waving fans ready to rock didn't slow `em down at all.
''Well, it's a good situation, but there's nothing been done yet,'' Bochy said. ''It's a number, just like I said about two. Now it's three. But that's not the Series.''
The Giants handed Detroit its first home loss in more than a month. The Tigers were coming off a sweep of the Yankees in the AL championship series in which they never trailed.
''We're not forcing anything, we're just not getting it done,'' Tigers star Prince Fielder said.
''Obviously, you never visualize this kind of thing happening,'' he said.
Vogelsong, a career journeyman whose path to the World Series took detour to Japan and Venezuela, improved to 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts this postseason.
''I knew my stuff was pretty good,'' Vogelsong said. ''I was really pumped up to be out there.''
Vogelsong induced two early double plays, then faced his stiffest test in the fifth.
The bases were loaded with one out when Vogelsong fanned rookie Quintin Berry. That brought up Cabrera, honored on the field before the game with an actual blue-and-gold crown for his Triple Crown accomplishments.
With the fans chanting ''M-V-P!'' and likely sensing the whole Series was riding on this at-bat, Vogelsong seemed completely calm while chewing gum. He won the matchup, too, getting an easy popup that prompted Cabrera to slam his bat to the ground and elicited cheers in the San Francisco dugout.
''I was just trying to make a pitch,'' Vogelsong said. ''And the way we're 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.''
Lincecum took over with two outs in the sixth, and the two-time Cy Young Award winner looked as if he had been coming out of the bullpen his whole life and shut down the Tigers.
Closer Sergio Romo finished off the combined five-hitter with his second save of the Series.
Blanco punctuated the ninth inning with his latest fancy grab, a sprinting catch into foul territory in left field.
Combined with Madison Bumgarner's effort in Game 2, San Francisco threw the first consecutive shutouts in the Series since Baltimore in 1966, when Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and Dave McNally did the trick to finish off the Dodgers.
''We couldn't get the killer hit or the killer blow,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Shut out only twice all year, the Tigers once again looked lost at the plate. When Fielder struck out in the eighth, the fan favorite caused boos to bounce around Comerica Park. Big sluggers with teeny numbers, Cabrera and Fielder are a combined 3 for 19 against the Giants.
''It is what it is,'' Fielder said.
The fearsome Tigers have totaled a mere three runs and 15 hits while hitting .165 in three games, and were shut out twice in a row for the first time since April 2008.
Only one team in baseball history has overcome a 3-0 deficit in the postseason, with Boston doing it in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.
''Well, you don't really have to tell them anything. They can count,'' Leyland said. ''They're big guys, they know what the situation is.''
For the Tigers, it was the sixth straight Series loss dating to 2006 against St. Louis. They got a fine effort from pitcher Anibal Sanchez this time, but it wasn't enough against these Giants.
It was 47 degrees at gametime, a drop of 17 from Thursday night at AT&T Park, and the Tigers clearly knew this was their chance to pull back into the Series.
Soon enough, Game 3 took on a familiar look.
During the Giants' early two-run burst, Detroit's body language said all you needed to know about this Series. At one point in-between pitches, Cabrera put his hands on his hips at third base, shortstop Jhonny Peralta scuffed the dirt, second baseman Omar Infante turned his back to the infield, Fielder stared down at first.
A losing posture, plain and simple.
The Comerica crowd, so pumped earlier in the postseason, quickly fell silent. Desperate to cheer for anything, the fans hollered for a long, albeit routine, flyout by Delmon Young.
Detroit grounded into the most double plays in the majors this year, and two slick turns by Crawford at shortstop added to the Tigers' total.
Both DPs came with two on and one out, by Fielder in the first and the speedy rookie Berry in the third. Berry put both hands on his batting helmet as he zoomed well past the base, running out his frustration.
Working on 12 days' rest, Sanchez may have been the latest Detroit player to be caught in the Rust Belt, at least in the second inning. That's when he constantly overthrew his fastball and did not resemble the pitcher who had made two sharp starts this postseason.
The San Francisco hitters also were amply familiar with Sanchez. This was the fourth time he had matched up with Vogelsong in the last two years - Sanchez twice won duels, then lost a slugfest.
Hunter Pence, who scored one run and drove in the other during a 2-0 win in Game 2, drew a four-pitch walk to begin the second. It was a telling sign - Sanchez had not walked a right-handed batter since August.
Pence stole second, took third on a wild pitch and, with the Tigers' infield playing in, trotted home when Blanco tripled off the wall in right. Crawford looped an RBI single with two outs for a 2-0 lead, and Rick Porcello began warming up in the Detroit bullpen.
Notes: Cabrera has safely reached base in all 23 postseason games in his career. ... A few fans outside the ballpark climbed part of the way up the exterior gate to catch a glimpse of the action from left field before a stadium attendant inside told them to get down.