The Tigers didn't imagine they'd be headed to Motown in an 0-2 series deficit after handing the ball to fire-baller Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series. Detroit had just swept the Yankees in the ALCS and was primed to win its first championship since 1984.
They flew into San Francisco to clash with the Giants after a brief hiatus that pitted the team in competition against minor league talent, but there is no scrimmage that can substitute the magnitude of baseball's ultimate championship series.
The Giants destroyed the Tigers in Game 1, and even though it's old news, the fact that it happened is still prevalent. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera looked completely dejected while fielding reporter questions about Pablo Sandoval's historic three home run performance.
Verlander was repeatedly asked if the Tigers' extra time off had killed his team's momentum while Manager Jim Leyland assured members of the press that momentum is simply "the next day's starting pitcher."
Doug Fister was the next day's starting pitcher, taking a hard-fought loss, rallying to complete six full innings of work after taking a line-drive off the back of his head in the second inning off the bat of Gregor Blanco.
If momentum is truly the next day's starting pitcher, then Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez better be prepared to deal. Sanchez will attempt to aid his team in avoiding an 0-3 series deficit on Saturday night, a deficit which no team has ever overcome in a World Series.
The Giants will counter with Ryan Vogelsong, who has surrendered just three earned runs in 19 innings pitched in the postseason. The journeyman pitcher has dominated, striking out 18 while walking just six. Vogelsong is more vulnerable on the road though, accumulating a 3.87 ERA away from pitcher-friendly AT&T Park in the regular season. The right-hander has also lost three of his past five decisions on the road.
The Tigers will try to wake up their sleeping bats after mounting two hits in Game 2. Detroit is statistically better in almost all major offensive categories at home as compared to on the road. They hit .278 as a team at Comerica Park, a full 20 points better than their road average.
A bounty of the Tigers' season-long success has been attributed to their starting pitching. However, the Tigers don't necessarily win with pitching in itself. The difference in offensive production between Detroit's wins as compared to losses is astounding.
The Tigers hit 75 points higher in their wins than in their losses. They crushed 111 home runs in 88 wins, more than the Giants put over the fence all season. Detroit averaged 5.76 runs per game in games they won during the regular season, almost double their run output in games they lost.
There's no doubt that the Tigers' starting pitching is a team strength, but they typically don't succeed in low scoring game situations. In fact, the Tigers were among the worst in the American League in one run games this season, registering a record of 21-27. In comparison, the Giants were 30-20 in one run decisions in the National League.
For the Tigers to win Game 3, they need to score more than just a few runs off of Vogelsong. The Giants have an enormous edge over Detroit in close-game situations, especially when weighing the bullpen factor.
Infielder Omar Infante will be a critical component in whether or not the Tigers will stave off another defeat. He's the only player in Detroit's lineup that has sustained success off Vogelsong, mounting seven singles in 11 at bats. Infante needs to be a spark-plug for a Tigers lineup in desperate need of a boost. It'll be key for Infante to get on base in front of Cabrera and Fielder to force Vogelsong into the stretch, and create scoring opportunities.
That won't be an easy task, however. Vogelsong has been stellar in spotting his pitches all postseason. The Tigers don't stand a chance in Game 3 if Vogelsong gets into a groove.
The Giants ride a franchise-best five game postseason win streak into Detroit. San Francisco performs better offensively on the road than at home, scoring over five runs per game away from their waterfront ballpark.
Sanchez might be the best possible pitching candidate to silence the Giants' growing momentum. He's 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five career starts against San Francisco. But most of that success has happened at AT&T Park.
Sanchez has yielded seven earned runs on 12 hits in 11.1 innings pitched in two starts against the Giants away from San Francisco.
The Tigers are doomed if that trend continues, especially if they don't muster sufficient run support.
Detroit will desperately attempt to attain hope in Game 3, just three days after seemingly being anointed as the best team in baseball.
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