No one could argue that the San Francsico Giants have not deserved to win this World Series. Their starting pitching has been great, their hitting has been timely and their relievers have been absolutely lights-out. The Detroit Tigers will probably go home this winter and feel that they did not do themselves justice with their performance in this series and they probably didn’t.
But even if they had I think they would have struggled. The Giants come into the series off the momentum of their two come-from-behind victories in the first two rounds and played near-flawless baseball.
The biggest game of this series was probably Game Two. The Tigers in general and Justin Verlander in particular looked very undercooked in Game One, but despite their bats being quiet (the consolation home run by Jhonny Peralta notwithstanding) it was nothing about which to panic. A bit of rust, but it was early days and there was nothing to suggest that they would not improve in the second game. And their pitching did improve in that game, but as has been discussed already they made some costly blunders to give the game away.
The last three games of the series were all winnable ones for the Tigers, but this loss was probably the most costly as it was the difference between a level series and a slightly desperate 0-2 hole. Of course, being down 0-3 and ultimately being swept were even worse, but both of those had their roots in that Game Two loss.
In Game Three, the Tigers looked desperate and quickly had to start chasing a game. The Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong was good, but no more than that and conceded nine baserunners in 5.2 innings. This should almost never result in a scoreless start, but the Tigers by this time did not look like the same team that had swept the New York Yankees. They looked like a team that did not know from where their next run was coming and they were straining to get the big hit.
More than once we saw a hitter get overeager and swing early in the count at a pitcher’s pitch and leave runners on in scoring position. It is behaviour I know far too well as it was characteristic of the Kansas City Royals‘ twelve game losing streak in April and it is down to the same cause: a team in mental disarray. There is little chance that the Tigers would be playing like that in a 1-1 series.
All of which led to tonight’s game. The Tigers played much better tonight; they remembered how to hit and got a solid, albeit not brilliant, effort from Max Scherzer. This was, unlike Games Two and Three, not a game one felt that the Tigers ought to have won, though it was certainly a game they could have won. Rather it was a good game where both sides played well and someone had to take a tough loss.
In short, the sort of game one wants and expects to see in a World Series and which a team will usually have to budget for possibly losing. But by tonight the Tigers were 0-3 down and had no more room in the budget. In any other situation, even if it put them 1-3 down, they could have absorbed it knowing they had Verlander again tomorrow. But because of the bad loss in Game Two and the knock-on effect it had in Game Three this loss secured the series for the Giants.
As I said at the top I don’t think the Tigers would have won the series either way. They might have won Game Two if they had played better and they probably should have won Game Three. But the Giants played excellent baseball from the first time the Umpire called ‘play’ last Wednesday and I expect they would have triumphed eventually. But that won’t stop the Tigers from spending the winter thinking about what might have been had things gone differently in Game Two.