Giants prove title is won on the field, not on paper
Led by Triple Crown winner, Tigers were favored entering World Series
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera looked at a called third strike, and it was over.
Cabrera and the favored Detroit Tigers went down in flames Sunday, losing a World Series they were supposed to win. The relentless San Francisco Giants completed an amazing four-game sweep of the American League champions with a 4-3, 10-inning victory Sunday night at cold, misty Comerica Park.
With Cabrera, Major League Baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967, ace Justin Verlander and slugger Prince Fielder aboard, the Tigers were heavily favored to win the 108th Fall Classic.
In fact, a sweep was not out of the question. Few felt San Francisco could push Detroit to six or even seven games. But it was the mystical Giants who did the sweeping. They made this World Series a blur.
No matter how talented a team is, no matter how many superstars it has or how heavily favored it is, the games are not played on paper. This World Series, if not all of this postseason, proved that.
World Series sweeps
The Giants sealed their seventh World Series championship, and second since they moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958, by winning seven consecutive postseason games.
Who would have thought Cabrera, leading candidate for the AL MVP Award, would look at a third strike and bat just .231 in the World Series?
Or that Verlander, as invincible as a starting pitcher can be, would lose in Game 1? He was supposed to start Game 5, but that will not happen now.
The Tigers were rusty -- shut out in Games 2 and 3. As was the case when they lost to the Cardinals in five games at the 2006 World Series, the Tigers showed the effects of the long layoff between their sweeping of the Yankees in the AL Championship Series on Oct. 18 and the start of the World Series on Wednesday.
But this postseason belonged to the Giants, who had to come from behind to oust the Reds in the National League Division Series and ditto against the Cards in the NL Championship Series. In all, they avoided elimination in six games during the postseason.
The Giants played as if they were under a spell in the games at AT&T Park. The ball continually bounced their way -- and against the Tigers. It was almost as if the beautiful San Francisco park became a haunted house for them.
Yet in the end, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said losing wasn't about bad breaks.
"We got beat," the extremely honest manager said. "You can sit here and try to find some reason or excuse. They beat us. They earned it. We didn't hit enough. So you just turn the page and move on. Congratulations to the Giants. They did a fantastic job.
"For a team that was down to Cincinnati 0-2 and came back and won, and fought their way through the other series, they deserved it. They're the world champions, and they deserve to be the world champions."
That the Tigers were able to sweep the AL East champion Yanks, a multitalented team with MLB's largest payroll, was incredible.
Most World Series titles
Just as amazing is that a team which could dispose of the Yankees could be swept by the Giants.
"I'm a little big flabbergasted, to be honest with you -- in both of those series," Leyland said. "I never would have thought that we would have swept the New York Yankees, and I never would have thought that the Giants would have swept us.
"But it happened. It's a freaky game, and it happened. So be it."
Matt Cain, San Francisco's ace who pitched a perfect game during the regular season and started Sunday night's clincher, said the sweep was a surprise.
"With the Tigers' lineup and what they'd already done in the postseason, I definitely thought it was going to the wire," said Cain, who left after seven innings Sunday night in a 3-3 tie. "It just so happened that we got kind of hot and scored some runs at the right time -- and ended up pulling off some close games."
Yes, the games had to be played on the field.
The Giants are built on pitching and defense, but the fact that they were able to win Games 2 and 3 by identical 2-0 scores was the key to their sweep.
"To beat this club and only score two runs in those games, that's pretty amazing," said San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy. "I think our defense really saved us every game -- the double plays, the plays that [Gregor] Blanco made, Brandon Crawford made."
That, and that their pitching was able to shut down Cabrera and Fielder, not to mention beating Verlander in Game 1 with Series MVP Pablo Sandoval blasting three home runs.
In the third inning Sunday night, Cabrera lofted a wind-blown two-run homer off Cain to put Detroit up, 2-1, but he wasn't a factor in the four games. After the homer, he struck out three times, including the final out on a baffling slider from closer Sergio Romo.
Cabrera had just three hits, just the one homer and drove in only three runs in the series. Fielder had just one single, didn't drive in a run and was left with a .071 batting average.
So often the best teams during the regular season falter in the postseason.
As Casey Stengel said, "You can look it up."
Or as Bochy said, it comes down to executing fundamentals better than the opponent and believing you can win no matter the odds.
That's because the games, especially in October, are played on the field -- not on paper.
Just ask the Tigers.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.