For all intents and purposes, the World Series ended on Miguel Cabrera’s pop-up in the fifth inning of Game 3. It was the symbolic play of the 2012 Fall Classic: The Giants have maximized their opportunities, and the Tigers have not. More than any one play, that pop-up summed up why San Francisco has a 3-0 lead and could very well end the series Sunday night.

But Saturday night, Detroit lost a second straight 2-0 game and joined the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers with the dubious distinction of being shut out in back-to-back World Series games. A pair of runs scored by the Giants in the second inning might as well have been 20, because the toothless Tigers simply could not generate offense against Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and Sergio Romo.

The shame of it is that Anibal Sanchez pitched well tonight for the second time this postseason, only to lose. Like his first loss against the Oakland A’s, Sanchez was more than good enough to win. His final line was very good: Seven innings, six hits, two runs and eight strikeouts. But like that start in Oakland a couple weeks ago, there was no offense to be found.

Who would have thought that Justin Verlander would potentially have the worst start of the World Series for the Tigers? It is certainly starting to look that way as Doug Fister and Sanchez were largely brilliant. Over 13 innings, they allowed a mere 10 hits and three earned runs, but are 0-2 combined. Under most circumstances, a total ERA of 2.07 would be enough to win at least one game. 

Instead, the Tigers are staring at a history that now officially seems impossible: No team has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit to win the World Series. To make matters worse, no team has even won a game down 0-3 since the 1970 Cincinnati Reds. The only other team in history to do so was the 1937 Giants. The New York Giants.

So when it comes time to ask, “what went wrong,” there will be plenty of goats to choose from for Detroit. But there is no way you can point the finger at the starting pitching. Even as Verlander was getting hit in Game 1, the offense did not break through until the sixth inning, two innings after Verlander exited.

This three-game deficit is clearly about the punchless lineup Detroit has had. I targeted a trio of players that would be key to Game 3: Andy Dirks, Prince Fielder and Sanchez. Only the starting pitcher held up his end. Fielder, who is now 1-for-10 in the series (including 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position), continued to fail in big spots behind Miguel Cabrera. 

Dirks was 0-for-3 with a walk, but was largely part and parcel of the whole for Detroit’s inability to score. Too much red ink at the plate has the San Francisco Giants on the verge of ecstasy and the Tigers agonizing over another World Series meltdown offensively. In 2006, the Tigers hit .199 in the World Series. This year, they are hitting .165 overall.

Give some credit to the Giants and their tremendous pitching. But Detroit has had chances and had their big guns up. And like that Cabrera pop-up, they have often been meek and underwhelming in big spots. Now, it looks as if the Tigers’ arms will have to be perfect, or they’ll watch San Francisco celebrate a championship at their expense. 

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