DETROIT - If there are any New York Yankees paying attention to this World Series they are getting a new perspective on just how awful they were in the American League Championship Series. And maybe how lucky they are to be out of the World Series spotlight.
What they’re seeing is that this week’s Detroit Tigers are last week’s Bronx Bombers, a mirror image, completely overmatched by a pitching staff incapable of making a mistake in the clutch.
And now the Tigers have really hit crunch-time, down three games in the World Series after Saturday night’s second consecutive 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Detroit is now in that ugly place from where none have returned in best-of-seven World Series history, down 3-0 to a team that is showing no signs of letting up, no cracks in its armour.
“Nothing has been accomlished yet,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “This isn’t the end. We’ve got three (wins) but we need four. There’s still a lot of business at hand.”
One win away from their second World Series title in two years, the Giants are doing everything right. Their starting pitchers have allowed one run in 18 1/3 innings while striking out 14.
Saturday, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong bent but didn’t break, allowing five hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings, working out of jams in three of his first five innings, making big pitches when he needed them.
“I didn’t think I was that sharp tonight and I didn’t like the idea of walking four guys but mostly I was just trying to get the (Tigers) to put the ball in play because our defence was flying around out there,” said Vogelsong.
Beyond that, the Giants haven’t exactly worn out the Tigers pitching staff -- they have struck out 28 times in three games, after all -- but they have gotten some key hits when it mattered.
In this one, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford each drove in a second-inning run and that was that. From that point on, they only had two more runners in scoring position and failed to deliver either.
When they swept the Yankees four-straight in the ALCS, the Detroit outscored New York 19-6 and almost doubled them in on-base plus slugging, .803 to .488. In this Series, the Tigers have had the tables turned 180 degrees, outscored 12-3 by the Giants with two of the Detroit runs coming on a garbage-time home run in Game 1 with San Francisco leading 8-1. The Detroit batting average is a Yankee-esque .167, with a .481 OPS.
“We’ve been shut out the last 18 innings,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. “It’s pretty hard to win a game when that happens. We only got five hits. We don’t point fingers, because we win as a team and lose as a team.
“We’ve been hot and cold all year, maybe a little more cold than hot and this is just what it is. There’s no secret formula, no message. In this situation you don’t think about (winning) four, you think about (winning) one.”
To this point, the Tigers have not led in any inning in this World Series.
Whatever boost the Tigers were looking for in their own park, in front of their own fans, it did not materialize. There was, to be sure, a slight chill in the air at Comerica Park on Saturday but the Tigers bat rack was encased in ice.
Vogelsong seemed to set a deliberately deliberate pace in the first inning, dragging out each pitch. He walked Quintin Berry with one out, then gave up a single to Cabrera. But when Prince Fielder hit into a room service double play to end the inning, it sucked the life right out of the stadium.
It got worse for the Tigers. Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez walked Hunter Pence to lead off the second. Pence stole second base and went to third on a wild pitch. One out later, Blanco launched a triple to the deepest part of the park and Pence sauntered home with the first run. An out later, Brandon Crawford got his first hit of the Series, a run-scoring single to make it 2-0.
It wasn’t as if the Tigers were getting blown away by Vogelsong. In the third inning, Detroit once again put two runners on with one out, but this time it was Berry who ended the threat with a double-play ball to second.
The Tigers came knocking again in the fifth, loading the bases with one out on singles by Alex Avila and Omar Infante and a walk to Austin Jackson. After Berry struck out, the crowd came to life as Cabrera, their Triple Crown hero, stepped into the batter’s box with a chance to do some damage.
As if to prove this is not simply Detroit’s year, the big man popped up feebly to the shortstop to end the threat.
So far in the series, Detroit is 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Bochy made a master stroke in these playoffs, using two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum out of the bullpen. Lincecum worked 2 1/3 perfect innings, striking out five, in Game 1 in relief of Barry Zito. Saturday night, Lincecum pitched another 2 1/3 innings and again allowed no hits but did walk one while striking out three in picking up after Vogelsong left the game.
“Tim’s accepted that role and seems to be relishing it,” said Bochy. “We thought he would be a good weapon to have out there and that’s exactly what he’s been.”
Sergio Romo came out of the bullpen to work a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, aided by a fine running catch by Blanco in foul ground down the left-field line.