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Giants playing to strength with pitching, defense

NL champs snuffing out any chance for Tigers to light an offensive spark

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers wanted a change of venue. They got it. What they still couldn't get, against a San Francisco Giants team pitching and playing defense at near-perfection level, was a run.

When you play the game this well, victory is the only outcome that justice should allow.

The 2012 World Series shifted three times zones to the east, to Comerica Park in downtown Motown on Saturday night. But the results were the same as they had been on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

The Giants moved to within one victory of a championship with a 2-0 triumph over the Tigers. This was the same score as San Francisco's Game 2 victory. And it was the same basic formula that has won all three games for the National League champions.

In three games, the Tigers have scored a total of one run against the Giants' starting pitchers, and that was back in Game 1.

How good is this? These were the first back-to-back World Series shutouts by the same team since the 1966 Baltimore Orioles shut out the Dodgers, with Wally Bunker and Dave McNally, 1-0 in both Games 3 and 4.

There had been considerable chatter about how the Tigers were better against right-handers and were a much better team at home. And Detroit had won five straight postseason games at home, dating to 2011. Against superior pitching and defense, none of this mattered.

In Game 3, Ryan Vogelsong followed directly in the footsteps of Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner. Vogelsong pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings. He was more than good enough. And, of course, he had plenty of help.

Remarkable in relief
Lowest postseason ERA by reliever
Players Team Year IP ERA
Goose Gossage NYY 1981 14 1/3 0.00
Mariano Rivera NYY 1998 13 1/3 0.00
John Rocker Atl. 1999 13 0.00
Mariano Rivera NYY 2009 16 0.56
Mariano Rivera NYY 2003 16 0.56
Tom Hall Cin. 1972 15 2/3 0.57
Andy Hawkins S.D. 1984 15 2/3 0.57
Mariano Rivera NYY 1996 14 1/3 0.63
Keith Foulke Bos. 2004 14 0.64
Mike Jackson Cle. 1997 13 1/3 0.68
Tim Lincecum S.F. 2012 13 0.69
Minimum of 13 innings pitched

Tim Lincecum continued to be the perfect short-term answer to any long-relief questions the Giants had. He recorded seven outs, allowing only one walk. Sergio Romo pitched a perfect ninth for his second save of the Series.

And the Giants pitchers had plenty of help from the rest of their colleagues with the gloves. The tone of this game was established in the first inning, when the Tigers put runners on first and second with one out and cleanup hitter Prince Fielder at the plate. A nifty 4-6-3 double play put an immediate end to the threat.

The third inning presented the same situation; two out, one on. Against Quintin Berry, another left-handed hitter, Vogelsong once again got the grounder to Marco Scutaro at second, and again, the 4-6-3 double play ended the inning.

Pablo Sandoval made another fine grab, on a line drive, this one against Jhonny Peralta leading off the fifth.

In the eighth, shortstop Brandon Crawford made a sensational play, going to his left, diving and then throwing out Miguel Cabrera, on a ball that had appeared to be ticketed for center field.

"Ball hit up the middle -- just a reaction play," said Crawford, whose modesty apparently is as significant as his ability.

It is true that with two outs in the eighth, Crawford made San Francisco's first error of the Series; a throwing error that allowed Delmon Young to reach first. No problem. Lincecum struck out Andy Dirks to end the inning. But overall, Crawford's continued development as a top-shelf shortstop has been a big part of the Giants' success.

"You know, from the second half on, I don't know who's played a better short," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's how good he's been out there."

And then leading off the ninth, Peralta hit a drive into the left-field corner. The ball was hooking; the initial question was whether it would be fair or foul, home run, double, or nothing. The possibility of a catch did not seem to be a real issue. But it was to Gregor Blanco, who had already made two superb diving catches in the Series. He sped over into the corner, caught the ball in foul territory, avoided crashing into the wall and offered one more piece of solid evidence about why Detroit definitely could not win this game.

"I'll tell you, it's a critical part of the game," Bochy said of his team's defense. "That's our strength, pitching and defense. They've done a great job. Blanco, just a tremendous job he's doing out in left field, including in the ninth, making that catch. Pablo is playing a good third base. Of course we talked about Crawford, Scutaro, all of them. We've been doing a good job of catching the ball.

"Defense can win games for you, and I thought it did tonight."

Toothless Tigers
Fewest hits through first three games in one World Series
Year Team Opp. Hits
1906 White Sox Cubs 9
1915 Phillies Red Sox 11
1969 Orioles Mets 12
2001 Yankees D-backs 13
1966 Dodgers Orioles 13
1911 Giants Athletics 13
1949 Dodgers Yankees 14
1945 Tigers Cubs 14
1905 Athletics Giants 14
2012 Tigers Giants 15
1988 Athletics Dodgers 15
1948 Braves Indians 15
1926 Yankees Cardinals 15
1920 Indians Bklyn Robins 15
1914 Athletics Braves 15

Vogelsong had also extricated himself from what looked like a perilous situation in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. But he struck out Berry. Still, there was Cabrera, who earlier in the evening had been honored for winning the Triple Crown and named winner of the Hank Aaron Award as the best hitter in the American League. But here, Vogelsong got the Triple Crown winner to pop to short.

"I was just trying to make a pitch, and the way we were playing defense, really just trying to get him to put a ball in play somewhere," Vogelsong said. "Because I had a good feeling we were going to catch it if he did, with the way these guys were all over the field tonight."

"Since we've gotten him, you appreciate his whole game, the stuff that he has, but also how competitive he is," Bochy said of Vogelsong. "And when he gets in a jam like that, he's got an amazing ability to make pitches when he has to."

"Our pitching did a great job," Crawford said. "We don't expect them to go out and throw a shutout every time, but with the guys we have, it's not a surprise, that's for sure."

San Francisco is up, 3-0, in the World Series. Pitching and defense. Defense and pitching. Either way, with both going this well simultaneously, 3-0 is exactly where the Giants are supposed to be.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for
Read More: San Francisco Giants, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Crawford, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval