First AL team to be shut out in consecutive Series games since 1919 White Sox
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ROIT -- The last time an American League offense posted consecutive zeros in World Series games, that club was actually trying not to score.
That is how anemic the Tigers have been over the first three games of this year's Series, which they trail three games to none after a 2-0 loss to the Giants in Game 3 on Saturday. Until this weekend, no AL team had been shut out in back-to-back World Series games since the 1919 White Sox, who lost on purpose during the infamous Black Sox gambling scandal.
The 2012 Tigers, by comparison, are guilty only of impotence.
Taming the Tigers
Lowest team average in World Series history
"Everybody knows that we're kind of letting this one slip away," outfielder Quintin Berry said. "Guys are down on themselves, because we know we can be playing way better than this and we've worked so hard to be better than this. But things aren't going well, and you can kind of see it in everybody's faces."
Prior to Game 3, the Tigers could blame their offensive ineptitude on a run of difficult left-handed starters. They could blame it on their AL lineup coping with National League rules. They could blame it on a miniscule World Series sample size.
But after coughing out a second straight zero on Saturday, sending the AL champs to the brink of elimination, Detroit could no longer point to those excuses.
All the Tigers could do was collectively shake their heads, becoming the first team to post consecutive World Series goose eggs since the 1966 Dodgers (who did it three times in a row). They offered no answers, only shrugs. They gave no recommendations on how to fix this.
"Like sacrificing a chicken or something?" quipped designated hitter Delmon Young, who went hitless for the first time this series. "We're not going to do that. We're just going to come in here and hope for the best."
Tigers struggling to bring runs home
The offense, they realize, is slumping at the worst possible time. Two nights after lefty Madison Bumgarner and a pair of relievers manhandled them during Game 2, the Tigers mustered just five hits against the right-handed trio of Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and Sergio Romo in Game 3.
Unlike in San Francisco, the Tigers at least generated a few scoring chances Saturday at Comerica Park. They put two runners on base with one out in the first inning, for example, then repeated that trick in the third. They drew five walks to complement their five hits. They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth.
But each time, Detroit faltered, twice hitting into critical double plays and thrice stranding at least one runner in scoring position. Owners of the league's highest batting average with runners on second or third base during the regular season, the Tigers are now 1-for-11 in those situations this series.
"We're not seeing any new gyro-pitches or anything," Young said when asked about the quality of San Francisco's pitchers.
Only fastballs, changeups, curveballs and sliders. But they're having a devil of a time hitting any of them.
Fewest hits through first three games in one World Series
"We know that it's crunch time," Berry said. "Everybody wants to come through. Sometimes that's what happens in baseball -- you get overly aggressive and you don't let the game come to you, and that's when it gets a little bit more difficult."
It was Berry who represented Detroit's best chance to snap this skid, batting with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. But by his own admission, the outfielder expanded the strike zone on a 2-1 changeup, looking for a chest-high pitch that he could drive. Moments later, he was back on the bench after striking out, saying afterward that he was "anxious" and "overaggressive."
The result for the Tigers was another zero, zip, zilch, nada. Detroit has scored a total of three runs in World Series play, two of them coming toward the end of a Game 1 blowout loss. The club's two best hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder, are a combined 3-for-19 with two walks and no extra-base hits.
"If I knew what it was, we'd hit better," Fielder shrugged.
Giants reliever Sergio Romo cautioned that "we're definitely not going to sleep on" the Tigers, but, in Berry's estimation, there is only so much more Detroit can do. Collectively tipping their caps to San Francisco's pitching, the Tigers see no benefit in extra video sessions or batting practice swings at this juncture. They have already amassed thousands of plate appearances over the past eight months, ranking among the top offenses in baseball throughout the regular season.
Those performances, apparently, are on hiatus. What the Tigers are doing -- or more accurately, not doing -- is historic. Even the 1919 White Sox, who infamously lost on purpose, averaged 2.5 runs per World Series game.
"Sometimes it just takes one little bounce here," outfielder Andy Dirks said. "Tomorrow, if we win the game, we'll have some momentum going our way. That's what we're looking to do."