Sunday, October 28, 2012

World Series Game 3: Futile Resistance

Not all World Series are created equal. In 2011 we were treated to close games, including an all-time classic in Game 6, while the 2012 edition is ready to go down as a clunker. San Francisco's 2-0 win last night leaves them one win away from a sweep, great news for Giants fans, but not so exciting for the rest of us. In the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox proved that a team CAN come back from down three games to none, but that's the lone example in baseball history. In fact, of the twenty three World Series that have begun 3-0, twenty ended in a sweep and none went farther than a fifth game. The Giants are on the verge of their second championship in three years, and the Tigers don't seem interested in doing much about it.

In my Game 2 recap, I mentioned how much I enjoy a good pitching performance. Game 3 served as a good reminder that not every low scoring game is the result of strong pitching though. The Giants managed a second consecutive shutout, making them the first team since the 1966 Orioles to pull that off (more on those Orioles in a minute), but it wasn't because their starting pitcher was tremendous, or even particularly good. Ryan Vogelsong didn't allow a run, but he allowed multiple base runners in three of the first five innings, and didn't make it through his sixth.

In the 1st inning the Tigers had runners on first and second with one out, but Prince Fielder rolled into an easy double play. In the last two games, Fielder is 0 for 6 with 2 strikeouts, 2 double plays, and 1 horrible slide at the plate. That's about as bad as it gets, without having a ball bounce off your head to become a home run or something.

In the 3rd inning Detroit again had two runners on with one out, and again they hit into a double play (Quintin Berry this time). Then in the 5th, the Tigers managed to load the bases with only one out, but Berry struck out and then soon to be A.L. MVP Miguel Cabrea hit a weak infield fly to end the inning.

This wasn't a good pitching performance by Vogelsong, it was an escape act, aided by a complete inability to take advantage of numerous chances on Detroit's part.

The Tigers' Anibal Sanchez was arguably the better pitcher, despite taking the loss. He had a rough 2nd inning, allowing a walk, a wild pitch, a ball that was crushed to deep right-center field for a triple, and in the end, two runs. But in his six other innings, he allowed just four singles. The best pitching of the night came from San Francisco's bullpen, with Tim Lincecum dominating for multiple innings for the second time this series, and closer Sergio Romo making quick work of the 9th to end things. Neither of them allowed a hit.

The Tigers have now scored just three runs in the first three games of this series. I found myself wondering where that ranks, in terms of scoring futility in a World Series. I dug around and discovered that the last team to finish a a World Series with fewer than ten runs was the 1999 Atlanta Braves, who scored just nine while being swept by the Yankees. The Tigers could certainly score seven runs tonight (or win a game or two) and avoid that fate, but if tonight is anything like the first three games, Detroit is going to join this list:


#7.  8 runs - 1990 Oakland Athletics (lost 4-0)
#7.  8 runs - 1976 New York Yankees (lost 4-0)
#7.  8 runs - 1939 Cincinnati Reds (lost 4-0)
#7.  8 runs - 1922 New York Yankees (lost 4-0*)
#7.  8 runs - 1920 Brooklyn Robins (lost 5-2**)
#6.  6 runs - 1914 Philadelphia Athletics (lost 4-0)
#5.  5 runs - 1950 Philadelphia Phillies (lost 4-0)
#3.  4 runs - 1963 New York Yankees (lost 4-0)
#2.  3 runs - 1907 Detroit Tigers (lost 4-0*)
#2.  3 runs - 1905 Philadelphia Athletics (lost 4-1)
#1.  2 runs - 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers (lost 4-0)

* - Both the 1907 and 1922 World Series featured a game that ended in a 3-3 tie which was replayed entirely from the start, nullifying those three runs for each team.

** - The World Series was played as a best of 9 from 1919 to 1921. Scoring just 8 runs over seven games probably means that Brooklyn team (not yet known as the Dodgers) probably rates 3rd "best" on a more subjective look at the weakest scoring World Series teams.

Two other random notes:

- That 1905 Philadelphia team was shutout in all four of their losses, which is a record.

- The 1918 Boston Red Sox hold the record for fewest runs scored by a WINNING team, having scored just 9 when they beat the Cubs in six games that year.

Unless the Tigers manage at least five runs between now and whenever the World Series ends, they're going to have scored the fewest runs in a World Series in 46 years. Almost any chance of winning the World Series is now gone for them, what remains to be seen is if they lose it in historically inept fashion.

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