- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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At this point, there isn't a whole lot to say. The San Francisco Giants' pitching has been spectacular, their defense has been terrific and the Detroit Tigers' bats are as cold as the Michigan weather. But the series isn't over, not with Max Scherzer certainly capable of outpitching Matt Cain in Game 4 and Justin Verlander ready for Game 5. This series hasn't been about one team being better in the clutch than the other -- it has been about one team playing better at just the right time.
A few thoughts before Sunday's game.
Asked before Game 4 if he thought Prince Fielder was pressing or trying too hard, Jim Leyland said, "No, I don't think so. I think he's hit some balls hard that have been caught, and then he's had some other games where he hasn't swung quite as good." Prince himself had said after Game 3 that pressing is just a word used when you're not hitting well. In looking at the numbers, however, Fielder has been a little less patient. During the regular season, he swung at 27 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, but that figure is 40 percent during the postseason. Overall, he's swung at 50 percent of the pitches he's seen in the postseason compared to 43 percent during the regular season. Leyland is right in that Fielder has hit into some bad luck, but Fielder has been more aggressive than normal.
It's not just bad luck that many of the Tigers' line drives keep finding San Francisco gloves. Sitting out in the left field bleachers on Saturday, it was easy to see Gregor Blanco moving around for every batter -- in, back, left, right. A couple times I saw him make a signal toward Angel Pagan. I'm not saying the Tigers don't adjust, but I don't think their outfielders are moving around from batter to batter like the Giants outfielders. "I think it says a lot about our team athleticism," shortstop Brandon Crawford said before Game 4. "I know Blanco has made a couple catches that have taken away runs. Marco's play against the Cardinals and mine last night stopped a possibility of a rally starting."
Tim Lincecum's has been Bruce Bochy's secret weapon out of the pen. In his pregame press conference, Bochy said he'd prefer not to use Lincecum, although he'd wait until batting practice when pitching coach Dave Righetti talks to Lincecum to see how the two-time Cy Young winner feels. There's no urgency to use Lincecum tonight with the three-game lead and with Cain likely to at least get you into the sixth inning, Bochy has a well-rested pen he can use. Better to give Lincecum the day off and have him available if you need him in Game 5 or 6.
Gary (@2charms) asked me on Twitter: "I'd like to see research on WS champions & # of layoff days, the correlation. ie how many champs w 6, w 5, w 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 etc." I went back to 1995. The World Series champion has averaged 3.5 days off between the LCS and Game 1 of the World Series. The World Series loser has averaged 3.4 days off. People remember 2006 when the Tigers had six days off and the St. Louis Cardinals one and the Cardinals won in five games, or 2007 when the Colorado Rockies had eight days off and the Boston Red Sox two and the Red Sox won. The Tigers had five days off this year. But it has worked the other way as well: The Philadelphia Phillies had six days off in 2008 versus Tampa's two; the New York Yankees had six days off in 1996 versus the Atlanta Braves' two. If the Tigers lose, it won't be because they were rusty.
Quintin Berry is back in the Detroit lineup, hitting second again. It's not like Leyland has a better option. Andy Dirks is hitless in the World Series, but he's a better hitter than Berry. One thing is that Leyland isn't pulling a Joe Girardi and suddenly deciding to play his bench players. "Our lineup is what it is, and we're playing in the World Series," Leyland said. "I'm not afraid to make adjustments, but down three games to none, it's a little late for changing a lineup, I think." I will say that Leyland's philosophy makes a lot more sense than than desperation Girardi employed in the ALCS.
Matt Cain hasn't been lights out this postseason, although he did managed to blank the Cardinals for 5.2 innings in his previous start. He gives up a lot of fly ball outs, so the Tigers' best hope for beating him is to connect on a couple home runs. There just isn't enough productivity in the Detroit lineup right now (catcher Alex Avila will also not start after getting hit by a foul ball in Game 3) to string together long rallies of base hits. If the wind is blowing out all game, maybe that's a break the Tigers can catch. But if I had to predict, I'll say the Giants take another low-scoring game, say 3-1, and win their second title in three years.