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Commentary: It was just a matter of time before Giants finished off Tigers

San Francisco has to go 10 innings to win Game 4 and sweep the World Series, but the writing was on the wall almost from the opener.

October 29, 2012|By Phil Rogers

DETROIT — — Living on borrowed time.

That's all the Detroit Tigers were doing on a miserable, rainy Sunday night at Comerica Park. Because no one else would do it, Marco Scutaro — who else? — stepped up and put them out of their misery.

With a 10th-inning single that landed in front of a too-deep center fielder Austin Jackson, the San Francisco Giants nailed down a sweep in the World Series. Ryan Theriot came across the plate with the winning run in a 4-3 victory that was more workmanlike than a thing of beauty.

It was an anticlimactic end for a postseason that started with drama from one side of the country to the other, and no team dodged more bullets than the last one standing.

Who knows how this works? I had the pitching-heavy Tigers favored over the Giants, but this much is clear in 20/20 hindsight: There was no way they could have beaten the Giants when the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals didn't.

Those teams had the Giants all but on long plane flights back home in the National League division series and Championship Series but could not get one more victory when they needed it. The Giants were not taking chances against the American League champions. They wouldn't let them win even one game.

The Tigers came closest in Game 4, but in a fitting finish, triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera took a third strike from the bearded gnome, Sergio Romo, and the Giants jumped on each other at the mound.

For Manager Jim Leyland and Tigers fans, the final result brought back painful memories of 2006, when the Tigers were dismissed in five games by the Cardinals. They came into this World Series with a starting rotation that had compiled a 1.02 earned-run average in beating the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees in an ALDS and the ALCS, but everything turned when Justin Verlander served up two of Pablo Sandoval's three home runs in the opener Wednesday.

Verlander is going to have to live with the fact that he lost his last start in another magical season. He was beaten by Barry Zito, whose win Oct. 19 in St. Louis made the Giants realize they might actually have the stuff to win their second World Series in three years.

They needed five games to beat Texas in 2010, when their rotation was rolling all October. This was even more decisive.

There was no way the Tigers were going to dig out of a 3-0 hole. The outcome of the Series had been decided before Detroit's Max Scherzer and San Francisco's Matt Cain threw their first pitches in Game 4.

You don't escape a 3-0 hole in the World Series, not without more magic than anyone has ever summoned in baseball's championship round. The Boston Red Sox did climb out of that hole to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. But that's the only time it has been pulled off by a major league team in a best-of-seven series.

In the World Series, not only has it never been done, but no team trailing 3-0 has won even two games in a row.

Give the Tigers some credit for getting to the 10th inning Sunday. They used home runs by Cabrera and Delmon Young and strong relief pitching from Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke to take a 3-3 tie into extra innings on a night when there was no need to put the champagne on ice. It was 44 degrees at game time; the Giants could have cooled it by leaving it outside the clubhouse.

The extra-inning game was the Tigers' first in the World Series since Game 6 in 1945. That one is also remembered as the Chicago Cubs' most recent partaking in the Series.

Before Cabrera's windblown home run in the third inning, it seemed baseball had no more drama in the tank after a postseason that started with electrifying division series and a Giants comeback in the NLCS.

Even the Giants' recovery from a 3-1 deficit against the Cardinals was done in methodical fashion, not late-game comebacks. The Giants probably felt great when they took a 1-0 lead in the second inning against Detroit.

The Cabrera hom run gave Detroit a 2-1 lead and marked the first lead change in a playoff game in 12 days, the last coming in Game 3 of the NLCS. Seventy-five innings had been played since then, and not once had a team lost a lead. It was time for some excitement.

Buster Posey answered Cabrera's two-run home run with one of his own against Scherzer in the sixth inning. He crushed a 1-and-0 changeup that stayed up in the strike zone, driving it deep into the left-field seats, just inside the foul pole.

But Cain didn't have the 3-2 lead long. Young hit a home run to right field with two out in the bottom of the inning, tying the score, 3-3. It was his eighth career postseason home run for the Tigers, as many as Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline combined.

That doesn't sound right, does it? Neither does a Giants sweep of Verlander and the Tigers. It's a great game, isn't it?

progers@tribune.com

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