Posted April 18, 2013

World Series Game 3 preview: Giants at Tigers

Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers, Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants, World Series
Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez has a 1.35 ERA in two starts this postseason but hasn’t pitched since Oct. 14. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Giants at Tigers

Series: World Series, Game 3, Giants lead 2-0

Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

TV: FOX

Starters: Ryan Vogelsong (2-0, 1.42 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (1-1, 1.35 ERA)

As Jay Jaffe shows here, being down 2-games-to-0 is not a death sentence for the Tigers. Of the 47 teams to fall behind 0-2 in World Series history, 10 of them came back to win the Series, and seven of those 10 did so after losing the first two on the road, as the Tigers have. That a comeback happened in more than a fifth of those Series (21.3 percent) is actually pretty impressive when you consider that those teams had to go 4-1 or 4-0 over the remainder of the Series.

That said, the last team to dig out of an 0-2 hole in the World Series was the 1996 Yankees, as the last eight teams to fall behind 0-2 did go on to lose the Series, and no team has ever come back from being down 0-3 in a World Series. That last item makes tonight’s Game 3 the first must-win game of this Series.

The big questions facing Detroit in this game is whether or not its bats are going to show up. The Tigers managed just two hits in Game 2 and scored just one run through the first eight innings of Game 1. On the Series, Detroit is hitting .167/.231/.250 with 17 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances, or one every 3.8 trips, and just three runs scored.

In Game 2, the Tigers managed just five baserunners, three of which were erased on the bases, resulting in Detroit sending just 29 men to the plate in that game, two over the minimum. The last time a team had as few plate appearances across nine innings in a World Series game was Game 3 of the 2006 Series, when the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter limited the Tigers to three singles, one of which was erased on a double play. The last time a team had fewer plate appearances across nine innings in a World Series game was Game 5 in 1956, when the Brooklyn Dodgers were victimized by Don Larsen’s perfect game.

The good news for the Tigers is that they did manage eight hits in Game 1, with each of the top six men in their order picking up at least one safety, so their bats may not be as rusty as they looked in Game 2. Also, Detroit was a much better team at home this season, largely due to some extreme home-road splits among their hitters. The Tigers scored just 4.1 runs per game on the road during the regular season, but pushed across 4.9 runs per game at home, which is roughly the difference between the best and second-worst run-scoring teams in the American League this season. Here’s a quick look at Detroit’s likely starting nine for Game 3 sorted by how much higher their home OPS was than their road mark this season:

Miguel Cabrera 181
Omar Infante* 156
Prince Fielder 145
Andy Dirks 138
Delmon Young 97
Jhonny Peralta 82
Alex Avila 72
Quintin Berry 10
Austin Jackson -10

*as a Tiger only

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Giants have their best starter of this postseason going in Game 3 in Ryan Vogelsong, who has yet to allow more than one run in any of this three starts this postseason, each of which has been better than the last. His best came in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, when he allowed just one run on four hits and a walk while striking out nine across seven innings.

In his last six starts, stretching back in to the regular season, Vogelsong is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP and has allowed just one home run against 33 strikeouts in 36 innings while allowing just one run each time out. What’s more, the Tigers have had very little exposure to Vogelsong. Omar Infante, who spent most of the last two seasons in the National League, is a strong 7-for-11 (all singles, no walks or strikeouts) against Vogelsong, but the Tigers hitter with the next most plate appearances against Vogelsong is their Game 3 pitcher, Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez won’t hit in this game, of course, because the designated hitter will be in effect in the American League park. That will allow the Tigers to improve their defense by putting Delmon Young at DH, but won’t result in a major upgrade to their lineup, as Quintin Berry has hit just .250/.286/.350 this postseason and was worse than that in the second half of the regular season.

The Giants won’t benefit much either, as there is no big bopper among their reserves. Lefty Aubrey Huff has been awful over the last two seasons and is 0-for-12 career against Sanchez. Switch-hitting backup catcher Hector Sanchez hit just .266/.295/.367 as a lefty this season. The other three men on the Giants’ bench are right-handed: Xavier Nady, effectively a righthanded Huff in terms of health and performance over the last two seasons, and weak-hitting infield reserves Joaquin Arias and Ryan Theriot.

One final note, it’s a minuscule sample, but Gregor Blanco has faced Anibal Sanchez six times this season and made just one out, collecting two walks, two singles and a triple in the other five trips (with all three hits going to the opposite field). In his career, he’s 4-for-7 against Sanchez.

– By Cliff Corcoran

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