The San Francisco Giants are on the brink of another World Series title after winning Game Three 2-0 and opening up a 3-0 series lead over the Detroit Tigers.
We all know the facts: the only team to ever recover from such a deficit was the 2004 Boston Red Sox in their incredible ALCS victory over the New York Yankees.
It could happen again, but few would be prepared to put much money on it.
So while the Tigers lick their wounds and aim to salvage some pride by avoiding a sweep, the Giants can start thinking about another World Series win to go alongside their 2010 triumph.
The two Giants rosters are not exactly the same, but there are plenty of similarities between the two seasons. Both times San Francisco entered the Fall Classic as underdogs. Even after they defeated the Texas Rangers 4-1 in 2010 they were still seen as the second-best team in the series by some, with the congratulations being accompanied by questions over whether their batting lineup was the worst ever to win the title.
The phrase ‘damning with faint praise’ comes to my mind.
After the Giants took a messy 2010 Game One 11-7 (the two teams combining for 6 errors), Matt Cain dominated the potent Rangers’ lineup in Game Two, twirling 7.2 brilliant scoreless innings. Texas made the series interesting with a 4-2 victory in Game Three but then Madison Bumgarner (8IP, 0R, 3H) and Tim Lincecum (8IP, 1ER, 3H, 10K) gave them no chance in the next two games and that was that.
The Giants’ exceptional pitching took them to the World Series title in 2010 and, after shutting out the Tigers in Games Two and Three, it’s looking like the story will repeat itself in 2012.
Baseball fans have debated for years, and likely always will, about the relative merits of a strong pitching staff against a strong batting lineup.
The old line of pitching being key in the postseason is a bit simplistic as good pitching is an important element in any situation and one thing is absolute: it doesn’t matter how brilliant your pitching is, if you don’t score you can’t win a game of baseball. What is true is that the better your pitching, the less times you are likely to have to score to beat your opponent.
Good pitching will not always win you a game, but more often than not it will keep you in it. Perhaps that is where playoff pitching gains more prominence, that it’s more important to stay within striking distance in the short-series postseason format where you are liable to come up against another very good team.
Or maybe it’s just the nature of this time of year and the different sense of perspective it lends. Lose three games consecutively in the regular season and the whys and wherefores aren’t analysed so deeply because you can make those games back up in your next series.
Lose the first three games in a World Series and it’s desperation time. All you can do is hope to win one game to stay alive for another day.
The Tigers have to believe that they can stage the ultimate comeback to give themselves any chance. Their Game Four starter Max Scherzer has pitched outstandingly well in recent weeks and you just know that Justin Verlander is desperate to atone for his Game One outing with a typically dominating display in Game Five. Avoid the sweep with Game Four, take the series back to San Francisco with Game Five and suddenly that one win the Giants need to secure the World Series title doesn’t seem quite the foregone conclusion that it does today.
The Giants’ answer to all of that is Matt Cain. We know he can be perfect on the mound and whilst he hasn’t been at his very best so far this postseason, there isn’t anyone they would rather have taking the ball in this situation.
Their pitching did the job in 2010 and it may well do it again two years on.