DETROIT — This is not moneyball. This is retro ball.
In all the years Barry Bonds packed the ballpark in San Francisco, delighting fans with his spectacular feats of power, the Giants never won a championship.
In this post-Bonds era, the Giants are on the verge of their second World Series championship in three years. As he stood in the visiting clubhouse, General Manager Brian Sabean laughed at the question of whether pitching and defense had gone out of style.
“We’re proving it hasn’t,” he said, “and at the right time.”
The Detroit Tigers look mighty toothless. The Giants beat them, 2-0, on Saturday, completing the first consecutive shutouts in the World Series since 1966, when the Baltimore Orioles shut out the Dodgers in the last three games of a four-game sweep.
With a victory Sunday, the Giants would sweep. Never in the history of the World Series has a team rallied from a three-games-to-none deficit. In fact, of the 23 teams to take a 3-0 lead, all but three completed the sweep.
Neither Miguel Cabrera nor Prince Fielder, the dynamic duo at the heart of the Tigers lineup, has scored a run or produced an extra-base hit in this World Series.
“They’re great hitters,” Sabean said. “With [Justin] Verlander and those two guys on the team, they were the favorites in the Series.
“This game is funny. You still have to compete inning to inning. We’ve won a lot of innings.”
The Giants have not trailed in 54 innings. In the last three games of the National League Championship Series and the first three games of the World Series, the Giants are 6-0 with four shutouts. They have outscored opponents, 32-4.
“That’s the old saying: pitching and defense wins championships,” Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said.
Ryan Vogelsong and Gregor Blanco, two guys the Giants picked off baseball’s scrap heap, played pivotal roles Saturday.
Vogelsong, signed as a minor league free agent two winters ago, dodged runners all game and pitched 52/3 innings. The Tigers hit into a double play in the first inning and in the third, then left the bases loaded with one out in the fifth, when Cabrera popped out to end the inning.
“It’s my first World Series,” Vogelsong said. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was 5 years old. I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.”
In four postseason starts, the first four of his career, Vogelsong has a 1.09 earned-run average. He joined Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Burt Hooton and Blue Moon Odom as the only pitchers to give up one run or less in four starts in a postseason.
Tim Lincecum, who has transformed himself from summer flop to fall classic with his move to the bullpen, pitched 21/3 hitless innings in relief of Vogelsong. In 13 postseason relief innings, Lincecum has given up one run, for an ERA of 0.69.
Blanco, signed as a minor league free agent last winter, would not be playing had Melky Cabrera not been suspended for failing a drug test and subsequently banished by the Giants.
In the second inning, Blanco tripled home the Giants’ first run, then scored the second on a single by Crawford. Blanco has driven in five runs this postseason, two more than Fielder and one fewer than Cabrera.
Fielder struck out twice and hit into a double play Saturday. He is one for 10 in the Series. Cabrera, honored before the game with the Hank Aaron Award as the best offensive player in the American League, has two hits in nine at-bats.
Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said he could try manufacturing runs with other players but said he would let Fielder and Cabrera “whack away.”
Leyland also said he had no special wisdom to share with his players as they trailed three games to none, facing not only elimination but a sweep as well.
“You don’t really have to tell them anything,” he said. “They can count.”