In 3-0 hole, Tigers must follow in '68 club's footsteps
That season, Detroit rallied from 3-1 deficit to stun St. Louis in Fall Classic
DETROIT -- If the gasping Tigers are going to pick up the pieces and rebuild this World Series, they're going to have borrow a chapter from their 1968 predecessors.
Once again, Detroit went quietly in the cold of Saturday night, succumbing to the amazing Giants, 2-0.
Now, the once-favored Tigers are down 3-0 in this best-of-seven Fall Classic and will go home for the winter if they cannot stop the bleeding in Sunday's Game 4 (8 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:15 ET first pitch) at Comerica Park.
If there's any doubt in their clubhouse about comebacks, or if they need a little extra motivation, all they have to do is have somebody tell them about the 1968 Tigers.
None of today's Tigers were born when that historic Series took place.
After four games, Detroit was down 3-1 to St. Louis, and it looked like the '68 World Series was history.
I remember people saying the Tigers had no chance, that all the Cardinals had to do was show up in Game 5 to wrap up the championship. Instead, with Mickey Lolich winning two of the last three, Detroit sent St. Louis reeling in the final three games and won the title.
In fact, the Tigers outscored the Cards, 22-5, in those three games.
Detroit had 30-game winner Denny McLain leading its staff, and if it's any consolation to Justin Verlander, McLain lost the first game, 4-0, to Bob Gibson. In fact, McLain lost twice. But it was Lolich who won three games and was Series MVP.
For the Tigers to stop the Giants, they must quickly figure out a way to end what has become an unbelievable run.
It's not so much that San Francisco has won six consecutive postseason games, it's how the NL champs have been doing it.
The ball is obviously bouncing the Giants' way, but more than that, they are playing like they're under a spell. It was that way for the first two games at AT&T Park, and although the Tigers thought it would change when they came home to Comerica Park, it hasn't.
How else can you explain slugger Prince Fielder bouncing into a double play in the first inning with runners on first and second and one out?
Or another double play in the third taking Detroit out of a possible big inning after San Francisco had scratched out two runs in the second?
Granted, the pitching of Ryan Vogelsong had much to do with it, and superb relieving by Tim Lincecum, but eons from now when historians look back on this World Series, they'll mention the incredible way the ball bounced for the Giants.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy shrugs off the notion that unexplained things are happening to his team.
"I'll say this: The club is playing well," Bochy said, adding, "it's because our guys are doing a great job."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland and his players won't admit it, but they know there is something special -- or maybe even eerie -- going on in this World Series when it comes to the Giants.
In '68, when the Cardinals jumped out to their 3-1 lead, it was mostly because they had Gibson.
What the Tigers have to do is convince themselves that sooner or later, the Giants' bubble will bust and that maybe for once the ball will bounce Detroit's way.
Yes, they have to believe that.
When Lincecum struck out Fielder moments after Miguel Cabrera grounded out to start the eighth in Game 3, Fielder slowly walked back to the Tigers' dugout, his head down. He, like his teammates, was beaten.
Leyland said there will be no special message to his troops as they face elimination.
"You don't have to tell them anything," he said. "They can count. We know they're down three games to zero; there's no secret message for them. They're big guys, they know what the situation is.
"They know we have to come out [Sunday] and obviously win a game. I think it starts with that. You don't think about the four, you think about one, and that's basically what we were thinking about tonight."
Leyland knows all about the 1968 Tigers, and is convinced his players are capable of turning the page.
Hopefully, the pattern for much of the regular season won't continue.
"We've been pretty hot and cold all year, a little bit more cold than hot," Leyland said. "Even in the playoffs, we really weren't really scoring that many runs other than the final game against the Yankees [in the American League Championship Series which the Tigers swept]. We've been fighting all year long, in and out, with our offense."
The Giants became the 24th team to take a 3-0 lead in the World Series, and all of the previous 23 have won the championship. Of those 23, only three did not end it in Game 4.
What the Tigers have to do, as Leyland said, is forget about the numbers.
They know it's possible to come back. All they have to do is ask anyone who remembers 1968.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.