The San Francisco Giants are one win away from their second World Series title in the last three seasons after defeating the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 Saturday night to take a 3-0 series lead.
That magical fourth win could come on Sunday night when Max Scherzer and Matt Cain take the mound for their respective teams. Scherzer will try to keep the Tigers alive to see another day, while Cain will try to lock up the crown early.
The Tigers haven’t been able to do anything against the Giants pitching staff during the World Series and were held scoreless in Game 2 and Game 3. In order for there to be a Game 5, Detroit will have to plate some runs.
The Giants, though, are in the driver’s seat, and as long as they can keep Detroit off-balance offensively and replicate what their pitchers have done on the mound recently, the trophy is all theirs.
Let’s take a look at the biggest matchups to watch in Game 4 of the World Series.
Prince Fielder has been very bad during the World Series thus far, and Matt Cain will look to extend those woes for the Tigers first baseman.
Fielder only has one hit in 10 at-bats through the first three games of the World Series and hasn’t done well against Cain in the past. In 18 career at-bats against the Giants right-hander, Fielder has just five hits (.278) with three walks and four strikeouts.
In the playoffs, Fielder is hitting .227 against right-handed fastballs, which coincidentally is the pitch that Cain tosses most frequently. Cain has thrown the heat 57 percent of the time during the playoffs and has kept opponents to just a .191 batting average against it.
Cain is likely to start Fielder out with a fastball when the two meet on Sunday night, and Fielder might just have to forget about taking a pitch and swing for the fences. After that first pitch goes by, Fielder won’t have many chances to get on base against Cain.
Projected Winner: Matt Cain
Marco Scutaro has been one of the most feared hitters in the Giants lineup during the postseason, but he mainly showed the St. Louis Cardinals, not the Giants, what he’s capable of. He’s hitting just .167 in the World Series, and Max Scherzer has to make sure Scutaro doesn’t beat him in what could be the decisive Game 4.
The problem for Scherzer, though, is that Scutaro has beaten him in the past. In nine career at-bats against the Tigers right-hander, Scutaro has four hits (.444). None of Scutaro’s hits have been for extra bases or even to drive in a run, which does bode well for Scherzer.
The National League Championship Series MVP hasn’t done well against fastballs during the playoffs, hitting just .176 off the heat, but he has been better against right-handers than left-handers when doing so. Scherzer does throw a lot of fastballs, but they’ve been hit often during Detroit’s run through the postseason (.316).
Scherzer threw many sliders and changeups in his two postseason starts, and they have made him very successful, striking out 18 in 11 innings with a 0.82 ERA. If Scutaro is going to continue his success off Scherzer, he should just jump on the first fastball he sees and hope for the best.
Projected Winner: Marco Scutaro
In the ninth inning of Game 1, Jhonny Peralta connected for a home run off Giants pitcher George Kontos. The run didn’t mean much, as the Tigers fell 8-3, but that hit is significant for Peralta. That’s because it’s the only hit he has during the World Series.
In 11 World Series at-bats, Peralta is just 1-for-11 with that lone home run. He hasn’t been able to figure the Giants pitchers out since that one hit and has gone seven straight at-bats without another. That has to change for Peralta, who hits in the lower portion of Detroit’s lineup, if the Tigers are going to force a Game 5.
Peralta was hitting well before the World Series and has been getting hits off fastballs like it’s nobody’s business. He’s hit .390 off right-handed fastballs this postseason and has really just struggled with off-speed stuff.
Peralta is 1-for-3 against Matt Cain in his career and has at least one hit against several of the Giants relievers. If San Francisco is smart and well prepared, which we’ve seen that it is this series, it’ll stick to changeups and curveballs against Peralta.
Projected Winner: San Francisco Pitching
Brandon Belt has been miserable to watch at the plate during the World Series, especially after being so productive during the NLDS and NLCS. Belt has yet to get a hit against the Tigers pitching staff despite the Giants' success through the first three games of the World Series.
Belt has stepped into the batter’s box 10 times against the Tigers since the middle of last week, and he hasn’t left happy once. Sure, he walked once and later scored a run. But it's not like Belt is walking often enough to be deemed productive, as he’s only done it once while striking out six times, including three strikeouts during Game 3.
All of Belt’s previous success this postseason has come off left-handed pitching, as he’s really struggled against right-handers. During the playoffs, Belt is hitting .198 against fastballs from right-handers, .267 against curveballs, .118 against sliders and .091 against changeups.
In order for Belt to get a hit in Game 4, he just has to try to put together a solid at-bat. He should take a couple of pitches, fight off the ones he doesn’t like and hopefully connect for something in the gap.
Projected Winner: Brandon Belt
As we all know, the Tigers are one loss away from forever being known as just the American League champions and nothing more. Not only are they just one loss away from losing the entire World Series, they’re one loss away from being swept.
Only three teams since 2000 have been swept during the World Series, and the Tigers certainly don’t want to become the fourth. All three were swept by teams with Sox in their name (Red Sox twice, White Sox once), so at least the Tigers aren’t facing one of those teams—and yes, I know it’s not possible for them to play those two in the World Series either.
The Tigers are still alive for now, but the future doesn’t look so good. History is definitely not on their side since no team has ever come back from being down 3-0 in the World Series to end up winning it all. To be frank, it doesn’t seem like Detroit is going to be that team. It played well against the Oakland Athletics and swept the New York Yankees, but it just hasn’t shown up against the Giants.
So will the Tigers lose Game 4 and exit the World Series a few games early, or will Game 4 be the first win of the greatest comeback in the history of the game?
Projected Winner: History
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
Pablo Sandoval is arguably the most feared hitter in the Giants lineup, and he’s proved why. He connected for three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, two coming off the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander.
Sandoval is hitting a mind-boggling .636 during the World Series with 17 total bases. He has an OPS of 2.212. That’s absolutely insane, and you should look for him to keep the pedal to the metal come Game 4.
Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers
Austin Jackson has been the Tigers’ best hitter during the World Series, which is one reason why they still have some hope. Jackson has to be able to get on base early in order to potentially get a big inning going.
Jackson has three hits in nine World Series at-bats with one run and three walks. He has to keep being productive at the plate unless the Tigers are doomed, that is, if they aren’t already. Jackson has to step up big time in Game 4.
The key to the Giants winning Game 4, and thus the World Series, is Matt Cain. Cain has been a little all over the place during the postseason, but he has pitched well in high-pressure situations.
For the Tigers, it’s all about Max Scherzer and whether he can keep them alive.
During Game 4, Cain will pitch well in seven innings of work, allowing just one run in the fourth inning when Prince Fielder doubles home Miguel Cabrera. That’s all the damage Cain will allow as he hands the ball off to the bullpen.
Scherzer will also pitch well, just in six innings, unlike his counterpart. Scherzer will be a strikeout machine but will run into trouble in the fifth inning when he allows three Giants to cross the plate to take a 3-1 lead.
Santiago Casilla will work a perfect eighth inning, and Sergio Romo will look to come in for the save in the ninth. Romo will strike out Austin Jackson, induce a groundout by Quintin Berry and then strike out Miguel Cabrera looking to end the game and clinch the World Series for the San Francisco Giants.
Projected Winner: San Francisco Giants