As they had throughout the postseason, ushers handed out white rally towels to fans entering Comerica Park before tonight’s game. Walking through the concourse, I overheard a woman wryly ask her husband, “Are these crying towels?”
They proved to be prophetic words.
The better team — at least for four games in October — won the 2012 World Series. The San Francisco Giants were deserving. The Detroit Tigers were equal parts anemic and star-crossed.
A first-inning at bat epitomized the Tigers fortunes. On the ninth pitch he saw from Matt Cain, rookie outfielder Quintin Berry hit a line drive to right field that landed inches foul. Not to discredit the Giants, who clearly outplayed Jim Leyland‘s team, but the Tigers seemed unable to catch a break.
In the top of the second, the Tigers couldn’t catch drives off the bats of Hunter Pence [a double to left-center] and Brandon Belt [a run-scoring triple off right-field wall]. The back-to-back hits came after three of the first four Giants hitters went down on strikes. It was typical Max Scherzer, who had the highest K-rate [11.08] and second-highest BABiP [.333] among all qualifying pitchers [teammate Rick Porcello had the highest, at .344].
Conversely, Giants starter Matt Cain, at .259, had the 84th-highest [and fifth-lowest] BABiP. The numbers are indicative of the advantage San Francisco held on the defensive side of the ball. It showed throughout the four games.
In the third inning, with Austin Jackson on base, Miguel Cabrera hit a fly ball to right that looked relatively harmless off the bat. Buoyed by a gust of wind — the baseball gods giving the Tigers brief redemption — it ended up carrying into the seats. Detroit led for the first time in the Series, and for the first time in 57 innings the Giants trailed in a game.
Told about the streak [54 innings at the time] following Game 3, Giants reliever Javier Lopez was duly impressed.
“It’s pretty impressive to see that we’ve been able to do that,” said Lopez. “It speaks to the strength of our ball club, which has been the pitching. Those guys have been able to hold onto leads.”
The Tigers couldn’t hold their 2-1 lead. In the sixth inning, Buster Posey homered with Marco Scutaro to board to put the Giants back on top. In a Series that had lacked back-and-forth drama, the game was just starting to get interesting.
In the bottom of the inning, Delmon Young — who has more postseason home runs than any player in franchise history — made it 3-3 with an opposite-field blast. After Andy Dirks followed with a single, Jhonny Peralta hit a deep drive to left — into the same wind that helped Cabrera‘s ball — that didn’t quite have enough to get out.
The Giants stranded the go-ahead run on second in the seventh. Jeremy Affeldt struck out the side in the eighth. Phil Coke did the same in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Peralta hit another deep drive, this one run down by centerfielder Angel Pagan.
Then came the tenth and the return of the baseball gods to San Francisco‘s side — again, no disrespect to the team that swept the Series.
Ryan Theriot blooped a single. Brandon Crawford sacrificed. Scutaro blooped a single to drive in the deciding run. In a Series that featured numerous big-name players — mostly on the losing side — a trio of lesser-known players helped small-ball the Giants to a championship.
Sergio Romo closed out the game, with Cabrera going down on strikes to end it.
It wa perhaps fitting that Cabrera made the last out, as he and Pablo Sandoval exemplified the Series. Each hit third in his team’s lineup, making them only the second pair of third basemen to bat in that spot in the order in a World Series [George Brett and Mike Schmidt did so in 1980]. Cabrera finished 3-for-13 with a home run and three RBIs.Sandoval went 8-for-15, with three home runs and four RBIs, and was named the Series Most Valuable Player.
The Giants pitching staff could just as easily have garnered the award, as could Bruce Bochy or Brian Sabean. What matters is that Tigers fans were left crying in their towels and the Giants are bringing a trophy back to San Francisco.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland expressed it best.
“I tip my hat,” said Leyland. “They’re World Series champions and they deserve to be World Series champions.”