MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Five storylines to watch in Game 4

Ringolsby: Five storylines to watch in Game 4

San Francisco will attempt to become the 21st team to sweep a World Series in Game 4 against Detroit on Sunday night (8 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:15 first pitch). The Giants are the 24th team to win the first three games of a World Series. Of the previous 23, 20 completed the sweep and the other three won in five games.

Here are five storylines to watch in Game 4:

Four-for-Four

Matt Cain is the ace of the San Francisco rotation. He pitched the pennant-clinching Game 7 in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis, which pushed him back in the World Series rotation. That means he gets a chance to pitch the Series finale, too, if the Giants win Game 4.

He has a hard act to follow. Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong have combined to allow one run in 18 1/3 innings in the first three games. That's a 0.49 ERA. Only once has a World Series rotation had a lower ERA -- the 1905 New York Giants did not allow an earned run against the Philadelphia A's.

World Series

Other rotation ERAs below 1.00 were Baltimore's 0.61 ERA against the Dodgers in 1966, the Yankees' 0.76 ERA against the Phillies in '50, and the Yankees' 0.78 ERA against the Reds in '39. The '05 Giants are the only one of the four teams that had an ERA below 1.00 and did not sweep.

The 1905 Giants allowed three unearned runs in a 3-0, Game 2 defeat during their five-game victory over the A's.

Pitching In

The Giants' entire pitching staff has been impressive. San Francisco pitched shutouts in Games 2 and 3 against a Detroit team that was shut out in only two of their 162 regular-season games.

The 1905 New York Giants pitched a record four shutouts in the World Series. This year's version of the Giants have a chance to become only the third team to have three shutouts in a World Series. Baltimore did it against the Dodgers in '66, and the Dodgers did it against Minnesota in '65.

The 2012 Giants currently are the 15th team to pitch two shutouts, joining, among others, the '10 Giants, who twice blanked Texas.

Having allowed three runs in three games, the Giants have a team ERA of 1.00. Only five teams had an ERA below 1.00 in the World Series: the 1905 Giants at 0.00, '66 Orioles at 0.50, '50 Yankees at 0.73, '20 Indians at 0.89, and '07 Cubs at 0.94.

The Giants' back-to-back team shutouts were the first in a World Series since the 1966 Orioles. The most recent time it was done by an NL pitching staff was Cincinnati in '19 against the Chicago White Sox -- more often known as the Black Sox, because members of the team conspired to throw the Series. The last time an NL team had back-to-back World Series shutouts against a team that was trying to win was the 1917 Giants against the White Sox. Chicago won the 1917 World Series, 4-2, despite losing those shutouts in Games 3 and 4.

Whole Lot of Nothing

Prince Fielder joined the Tigers in the offseason after leaving the Brewers as a free agent, and now he is playing in his first World Series. It hasn't been productive for Fielder. He went 1-for-10 in the first three games against San Francisco. He's not the first hitter to struggle in the Fall Classic, however. There have been 139 players who had at least 10 plate appearances in a World Series and hit below .100.

Playoff struggles are not new for Fielder, who played in the postseason with Milwaukee in 2008 and '11. Fielder has a career .190 career postseason average. That ties him with Kelly Gruber, Andy Van Slyke and Walt Weiss for 38th-lowest career postseason average for players with 75 plate appearances or more.

In the Clutch

The Giants have taken advantage of their scoring opportunities. They are a combined 7-for-18 with runners in scoring position -- a .389 average. Three teams have had an average better than .400 with runners in scoring position in World Series history -- the 2007 Boston Red Sox (.419), 1910 Philadelphia A's (.417) and 2010 Giants (.405).

At the other extreme, Detroit is 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, a .091 average. There have been only four teams with a World Series batting average with runners in scoring position below .100 -- the 1966 Dodgers were 0-for-22, the '50 Phillies hit .067, the '74 Dodgers hit .088, and the '05 A's hit .095.

Get the Broom

There have been 20 sweeps in World Series history. The list includes the 1907 Cubs against the Tigers, and 1922 New York Giants against the Yankees. Both of those series included games declared ties because of darkness when they rolled into extra innings.

San Francisco will attempt to become eighth NL team to sweep a Series and the third since the 1963 Dodgers swept the Yankees. Cincinnati swept both Oakland in '90 and the Yankees in '76.

The AL has swept 13 World Series, including the most recent five times a sweep has occurred -- Boston against Colorado in 2007, the White Sox against Houston in '05, Boston against St. Louis in '04, the Yankees against Atlanta in 1999, and the Yankees against San Diego in '98.

The Yankees have been involved in 11 of the 20 sweeps. The Yankees have swept the NL champion eight times, and the Yankees have been swept three times -- by the Reds in 1976, the Dodgers in '63, and the Giants in '22. The Giants are looking for their third sweep. The Giants and Cincinnati are the only NL teams with more than one sweep.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.