The antonym for pressure is confidence. When one team finds its groove, as the Giants pitchers have ever since Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, then pity the poor, stress-torn team it faces.
The Tigers have now lost twice in a row by identical 2-0 scores. In Game 2, they got only two hits. In Game 3 on Saturday, only one Giants outfielder had to take a step backwards all night, for a routine catch on a long fly. Once, the Tigers loaded the bases. Ryan Vogelsong took Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera up the ladder with a high-and-tight fastball. Popup. After that, this crowd was quieter than snow falling in Dearborn.
“We couldn’t get the killer hit or the killer blow,” said Tigers Manager Jim Leyland, who identified the split identity of his team, which is fairly tame when Cabrera and Prince Fielder aren’t hitting. “We’ve been hot and cold all year, and cold more. We’ve been fighting all year long with our offense.”
Nobody wants to crack under pressure in the World Series, an event that creates emotions that perform a Cirque du Soleil act in your stomach. But it looks like the verdict is almost in. There is no action to describe because what matters most takes place in the minds of the Giants’ buoyant pitchers and the Tigers’ lunging hitters. San Francisco’s hurlers perform as they might in May, throwing good pitches to good spots. The Tigers do the rest, rarely even forcing the Giants to make a good defensive play. Prince and Miggy sure aren’t makin’ ’em look back 20 rows into the bleachers.
The Tigers’ plight is part anxiety, part rust from their pre-Series layoff, but mostly the constant attack by a focused Giants pitching staff that now includes a relief pitcher with two Cy Young Awards, Tim Lincecum, who added seven outs of Freak work to 52
3 innings by Vogelsong.
“I’ve been waiting for this since I was 5 years old,” Vogelsong said. “I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.”
No World Series team had suffered back-to-back shutouts since the Orioles blanked the Dodgers three straight times and allowed Los Angeles only two runs in the entire 1966 series. Few sights are more common than the power-hitting pennant winner that reaches the World Series, then plummets, gasping, into a one-through-nine slump.