Giants at Tigers
Series: World Series Game 4, Giants lead 3-0
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Starters: Matt Cain (2-2, 3.52 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (1-0, 0.82 ERA)
At this point, all the Tigers can hope to do is save some face. Not only has no team ever come back from a 3-games-to-0 deficit to win the World Series, none of them managed to push the Series as far as Game 6, with 20 of the 23 teams to fall behind 0-3 being swept and the other three -- 1910 Cubs, 1937 Giantsa and 1970 Reds -- all losing in five games. Since those Reds managed to pull out a Game 4 win against the A’s, eight teams have taken 3-0 leads in the World Series. All have finished the sweep in Game 4, most recently the Red Sox, who swept the Rockies in 2007.
There’s a first time for everything, of course, and a similar history didn’t preclude the 2004 Red Sox from winning four American League Championship Series games in a row to become the first, and still only, major league team ever to come back from an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. However, there’s very little reason to believe this Tigers team has that sort of comeback in them. If Detroit's performance in this World Series recalls any notable team accomplishment from postseason history, it’s that of the 1966 Dodgers, who turned in the worst hitting performance ever in the World Series while being swept by the upstart Orioles.
Already, the Tigers have become the first team since those Dodgers to be swept in consecutive World Series games. After the first three games of the 1966 World Series, the Dodgers had hit .141/.233/.207 and scored two runs. After the first three games of this World Series, the Tigers have hit .165/.208/.220 and scored three runs. Both teams lost despite strong pitching performances.
Given those offensive woes, Max Scherzer’s dominance in his two starts thus far this postseason (0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 14.7 K/9, 6.00 K/BB) and the nine days of rest he’s had since his clinching win in the ALCS to allow his sore right deltoid to heal further, would seem to have little relevance here. The Tigers have to hit to play another day. In 1966 Los Angeles' Don Drysdale threw a complete game and allowed just one run in Game 4, but his team got shutout for the third game in a row and was swept.
In context, the Tigers’ performance in this Series is actually worse than that of the ’66 Dodgers. Not only did that Series take place in a pitching-dominated era, with the high mound, enlarged strike-zone and no designated hitter -- producing a major league average of just 3.99 runs per game per team (compared to 4.32 this year) -- but L.A.'s best hitter that year was rightfielder Ron Fairly, a career .272 hitter who would never hit 20 home runs in a season. The Tigers have a pair of potential Hall of Famers in the middle of their order, including the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, but Miguel Cabrera is 2-for-9 and Prince Fielder is 1-for-10 (a combined .158), and neither has an extra-base hit. In fact, Detroit has just three extra-base hits in this entire Series, two of them coming in Game 1, which was a blowout in San Francisco's favor.
The onus is on Detroit, but that shouldn't minimize the fact that a large part of the Tigers’ pathetic performance at the plate has been the dominance of San Francisco's pitchers and the outstanding play of its fielders. The Giants have now won six straight postseason games. Four of them have been shutouts. They haven’t trailed for a single inning in any of them, and their pitchers have allowed just four runs over those six games for a team ERA of 0.67. That’s their team ERA, over six consecutive postseason games. That’s crazy.
What’s more, two of the four runs they have allowed over those six games scored against rookie reliever George Kontos over the course of four batters in the ninth inning of the lopsided Game 1 of this Series. Take out those four batters, and the team ERA drops to 0.34 over 53 2/3 innings.
In order to simply salvage one win in this Series, Scherzer and the relievers that follow him have to match the Giants zero-for-zero, and the Tigers have to break their slump against the regular-season ace of a team that has almost completely stopped giving up runs. In his last start, Matt Cain pitched the first 5 2/3 innings of the Giants’ Game 7 shutout in the NLCS. He did allow three runs in each of his previous three starts this postseason, and did have an ERA a run and a half higher on the road during the regular season, but Cain seemed to find another gear with his team playing for the clinch his last time out, among other things getting 15 swings-and-misses compared to 16 in his previous three starts combined.
To repeat what I wrote about the ALCS prior to Game 4, when the Tigers finished a convincing sweep of the Yankees, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over -- but it’s over.
-- By Cliff Corcoran