Tigers' scrappy effort ends in heartbreak

Tigers' scrappy effort ends in heartbreak

Tigers' scrappy effort ends in heartbreak
DETROIT -- The Tigers needed a miracle to get back into the World Series. They had to settle for a teeth-chattering nail-biter on their way out. It was at least better than going out with a whimper.

On Sunday night, Detroit matched its runs total from the first three games of the World Series and got more scoreless innings from its bullpen than in those first three games. It still wasn't enough. Once Marco Scutaro punched a single off Phil Coke to drive in Ryan Theriot with two outs in the 10th inning, the Giants had what they needed to send the Tigers to a 4-3 loss in Game 4 to complete a World Series sweep.

World Series

It was a disappointment to many of the 42,152 who braved the rain and cold at Comerica Park hoping to see the Tigers last at least one more game. As Sergio Romo got a called third strike on Miguel Cabrera to end it, it was a stunner for a team that just a week ago was trying to hold onto the momentum of an American League Championship Series sweep of the Yankees while waiting to see whether the Cardinals could hold onto their National League Championship Series lead and meet them in the Fall Classic.

"They played better baseball when it counted -- that's what it's about," said ace Justin Verlander, who was hoping for a second chance at the Giants in Game 5 after taking the loss in the opener. "We were playing great baseball up until this point and just couldn't really sustain it for these last four games. Not to say that we didn't give a heck of an effort."

It was agony for the Tigers as two Jhonny Peralta drives died at the warning track in a tied game, the second one in the ninth, and as Jeremy Affeldt struck out the middle of Detroit's lineup -- Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young -- with the potential go-ahead run on base in the eighth after a walk to pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia.

"The kid had a great at-bat to get on base leading off that inning -- you've got your three big guys coming up, and Affeldt pitched them tough," manager Jim Leyland said. "He struck out the side. You've just got to tip your hat to him."

Beyond the emotional pain brought on by the loss, Omar Infante experienced agony in a literal sense during the ninth inning.

After being struck on the left wrist by a Santiago Casilla fastball, Infante, one of the few on the Tigers who hit well throughout the Series, stepped toward the dugout, writhing in pain. The fracture would've ended his season regardless of whether the Tigers had won, although surgery won't be necessary.

The game was not, by any count, boring. For at least one evening, the fight many wanted to see from a Detroit team that had outlasted the A's in the AL Division Series before its ALCS triumph came out in droves. It was exciting enough that the crowd stayed in the cold rain throughout.

In the end, the offensive struggles that many predicted would doom the Tigers proved to be their downfall. It just happened a month later than many expected, eventually ending an amazing run for a team that stood three games out of a playoff spot with 15 games left in the regular season.

"If somebody told me in Spring Training that we would be in the World Series, I would have had to say I'll take that," Leyland said. "It was kind of a weird way that we got there, because we were a little inconsistent all year. Then we played pretty good when we had to, to get the division, and we obviously played pretty good through the first two rounds of the playoffs. We got to the World Series, and we just sputtered offensively."

That last part, Leyland said, left him flabbergasted. A team that hit .291 in the ALCS went just 20-for-126 (.159) in the World Series with five extra-base hits and 36 strikeouts.

"Good pitching's going to do that at times," Fielder said. "Unfortunately, a short series, it's quick. If they pitch you tough, if they're locked in, it's just going to be tough. But we gave it all we could do. Can't try any harder."

With just five hits on Sunday, the Tigers still didn't go out with a bang. They just made more out of their hits than at any other point in the Series.

With winds gusting toward right field, all three Detroit runs on Sunday came on home runs in that direction. Cabrera's third-inning fly ball with two outs kept taking Hunter Pence farther and farther back before the right fielder ran into the fence.

Lucky or not, considering the Tigers' fortunes the previous three games, they weren't going to apologize for it. They not only ended their streak of consecutive scoreless innings -- accumulating since the ninth inning of Game 1 -- at 20, they took their first lead of the Series, building a 2-1 advantage.

"I'll be honest, I thought it was a fly ball when he hit it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Cabrera's homer. "The wind was blowing, and it seemed he got into a wind gust there and it kept carrying. In fact, Pence said that."

It seemed like a stroke of fortune, and Detroit starter Max Scherzer took that lead into the sixth inning, fanning eight Giants along the way. While his fastball wasn't what it had been, the right-hander used a nasty changeup and effective slider to keep San Francisco off balance.

A Giants lineup that racked up pitch counts with foul balls over the three previous games never did it against a pitcher whose right shoulder problems limited him.

Just when things seemed to line up for the Tigers, Buster Posey took their fortuitous winds and drove a ball right through them, sneaking a two-run drive down the left-field line and just inside the foul pole for his first home run of the Series, giving the Giants a 3-2 lead.

"I just left [a changeup] up just enough to where, even when he was out in front, he was able to get the barrel to it," Scherzer said. "Even though it was a 1-0 count and I threw offspeed, you have to give him credit."

Young answered in the bottom of the inning with an opposite-field shot for his club-record eighth postseason homer in a Detroit uniform. From there, the bullpens traded big outs, from four consecutive strikeouts from Affeldt to four strikeouts over two innings by Coke.

After all of those home runs, San Francisco finally ended it with a couple of short singles. The first came from Theriot with a blooper into right field leading off the 10th. After a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, the second came from Scutaro, whose sinking liner fell just in front of center fielder Austin Jackson as Theriot charged around third.

"I knew that I wanted to charge it hard, and if I had a chance to maybe lay out for it, I'd try," Jackson said. "But it was sinking pretty hard. I wanted to try to play it in front of me to have a chance maybe at the plate, but nothing I could do."

Romo sent down the Tigers in the ninth. Once he got a called third strike on Cabrera, Detroit's October run was officially over.

Its run to get there won't soon be forgotten. It's the ending that will be tough.

"We got to this level, all the way to the World Series, to not win one game," Octavio Dotel said. "But it is what it is, once again. In baseball, you don't know what's going to happen, how things are going to go."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.