World Series 2012: San Francisco Giants beat Detroit Tigers in 10th inning of Game 4 to complete sweep

October 29, 2012

What happened here Sunday may not go down as a classic Fall Classic. But when Marco Scutaro’s ball settled into the wet grass in center field Sunday night at Comerica Park, the jumping, joyful crew in the San Francisco Giants’ dugout didn’t care one bit. Ignore them. Say they’re not as good as others. And watch them celebrate.

Scutaro’s two-out RBI single scored Ryan Theriot from second base in the top of the 10th inning Sunday night, and when Sergio Romo did what the Giants had done for four games — overwhelmed the Detroit Tigers’ hitters — the Giants had a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the World Series. They had a sweep of the Tigers, who hadn’t been allowed to breathe from the first pitch. And they completed an unlikely postseason run that brought them their second unlikely championship in three years.

“These guys made it easy,” Manager Bruce Bochy said. “They never complained. They just wanted to win.”

List the heroes: Scutaro, the midseason acquisition who drove in the winning run and scored another. Buster Posey, who crushed a two-run homer for his first big hit of the series. Matt Cain, the stalwart right-hander who was again a postseason pillar. Jeremy Affeldt, the veteran lefty who recorded five key outs — four by strikeout. And Romo, the setup man who became a closer, striking out the side in the 10th, finishing off the title by getting Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to fish at strike three.

“Obviously, there was no doubt about it,” Detroit Manager Jim Leyland said. “They swept us. There was certainly no bad breaks, no fluke. I tip my hat to them.

The winning rally fit the feel of the series: Nothing special, unless you were the Giants. It started with Theriot’s single off Phil Coke, continued with Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice bunt, and seemed to fizzle with Coke’s strikeout of Angel Pagan for the second out. But Scutaro, acquired in a July trade with Colorado, came through, sending a 3-1 offering from Coke into center for his 20th and final hit of the postseason. That it scored Theriot — the former starting second baseman who was replaced when Scutaro was acquired — seemed appropriate for the Giants’ all-hands-on-deck feel.

“It was one of the moments,” said third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the World Series MVP after his three-homer performance in Game 1. “He always be a clutch hitter in this postseason. I was waiting for that moment when he came to bat. . . . He earned this.”

A substandard, sometimes dull series? Not in San Francisco, not to these Giants. Twenty-four teams have taken a three-games-to-none lead. The Giants became the 21st to finish off the sweep, demoralizing the Tigers not only with quality pitching — as they had in the first three games — but with the only timely hits the series saw.

“A lot of guys are loose and relaxed, and it just seemed like all the pieces fit together,” Cain said. “A lot of us kind of had the same mentality about the game. Nobody stood out and wanted to steal the spotlight, and I think that’s what helped us.”

Game 4 was just a culmination of what the Giants started on Oct. 19, when they began what became a seven-game winning streak that finished their season — a winning streak filled with football-style pep talks and pregame gatherings in the dugout. Both are unusual for baseball, and both seemed to work.

“It’s really an amazing, amazing culture we have,” Giants President Larry Baer said.

Step back from this ordinary series — the seventh time in the last nine years the World Series hasn’t reached a sixth game — and the big picture reveals a franchise that must be considered among the most prominent forces in the sport. Since the New York Yankees won three straight titles from 1998 to 2000, only two teams had won multiple World Series: Boston in 2004 and ’07 and St. Louis in 2006 and ’11.

Now, the Giants have two in three years — and with an outstanding group of starting pitchers and some young position players, they could well be set up to return to future postseasons.

They have Posey, a 25-year-old catcher who was a key piece to both title teams and will be an all-star for the foreseeable future. They have Cain, the right-hander who wasn’t at his best Sunday, but still offered seven tough innings of three-run ball. They have Sandoval, the free-swinging third baseman who had 24 postsesason hits. This year, they developed rookies — first baseman Brandon Belt and Crawford, the shortstop — who look to be set for the near future. And they have flexibility, because Romo became their closer in the postseason only because Brian Wilson was out following elbow surgery, and Wilson will be back next year.

But those are the issues to come. First, the Giants had to win Game 4, their toughest task in 10 days. They jumped on top against Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer in the second on Belt’s first hit of the series, a scalded triple, and appeared poised to keep rolling.

And then, something completely different. In the bottom of the third, Cabrera came to the plate with just two singles in nine at-bats in the series, a runner on second and two outs. He lofted Cain’s 1-1 change-up the opposite way, to right. A stiff wind was blowing that way — likely the Tigers’ first break of the series — and the ball dropped into the first row, a two-run homer for a 2-1 Detroit lead.

Suddenly, the Giants were in new territory. Since they lost Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against St. Louis, they had not trailed. Not even by one run, not even for one inning.

So they came back. Posey — the presumptive NL MVP who entered the at-bat hitting a cool .190 in the postseason, with just two extra-base hits — crushed a Scherzer change-up for a two-run homer in the sixth. When Detroit designated hitter Delmon Young tattooed the first pitch he saw from Cain in the sixth deep to right, the series had something it had lacked — some topsy-turvyness.

All that just set up Scutaro’s heroics, and Romo to close it out. This series will not be remembered as a classic, but the Giants don’t care at all. Look around baseball, and find another team with two titles in recent, rapid succession. They are alone in that category, and in the dreary drizzle of Detroit, that’s all that mattered to this group, who might still be bouncing up and down, together.

Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.
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