DETROIT -- Sergio Romo will probably throw the last pitch of the 2012 World Series if the Giants win tonight, and it will probably be his slider, which is one of the best in the game, and a pitch that he learned out of desperation.
Romo played at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo., and what he found when he got there was that the breaking ball that he threw at the time didn't really break properly at that elevation (almost 4,600 feet).
So he altered his grip, embracing some advice: Instead of holding the ball the way most pitchers do when they throw a slider, he held it as if he were going to throw a two-seam fastball, and with the seams of the baseball serving as anchors for his fingers, he cocked his wrist and spun the ball.
"I could tell the difference right away," he said, remembering how the pitch broke properly immediately, in spite of the elevation.
Through the years, he has learned more about the pitch, about changing speeds with it and altering the angle, and with all of the variations, it's worked for him. Romo has now retired all six hitters he has faced in this World Series. In 9 2/3 innings this postseason, he's allowed only four hits, a walk and one run, and generated a whole lot of weak swings and popups. Incredibly, Romo has generated 20 outs in the air in this postseason (zero ground balls), with six strikeouts, and he and Tim Lincecum have dominated in this World Series.
World Series notes
Ryan Vogelsong became the second pitcher to begin his career with four straight postseason starts of five innings or more, allowing one run or fewer. The other was Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Vogelsong beat the Tigers in Game 3:
A. Vogelsong worked his fastball on the inner third of the plate to righties, throwing 16 of 34 heaters there. The Tigers righties went 1-for-5 in at-bats ending with a fastball inside.
B. Vogelsong attacked lefties away with his fastball with 18 of 26 pitches. Eleven of the 18 pitches went for strikes, as Tigers lefties went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the heater.
C. The Tigers were 0-for-4 with RISP, including two double plays. Opponents are 2-for-17 with three strikeouts against Vogelsong this postseason with RISP (.118 BA, .217 in regular season).
From ESPN Stats and Info, on Lincecum's performance:
A. He threw seven two-strike pitches (four fastballs, three changeups). Lincecum threw all three changeups to lefties, leading to strikeouts.
B. Three of the four outs Lincecum got against righties were on the inner half of the plate. Tigers righties are 0-for-7 against Lincecum in the series in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inner half.
C. His average fastball velocity was 92 mph, his highest as a reliever in the playoffs. Lincecum has not thrown a fastball slower than 90 mph in the World Series.
The Freak show worked again, writes John Harper.
Prince Fielder has looked incredibly anxious at the plate, seeing a total of 30 pitches in 11 plate appearances, and the Giants are following the blueprint established by the Athletics and Yankees in the first two rounds in dealing with Miguel Cabrera, pounding him inside with pitches. So far in this series, the duo is 3-for-19 with one RBI (the same number of RBIs for Barry Zito in this World Series).
Fielder managed to have a smile and a sense of humor after Game 3. He was asked if somebody on the Tigers needed to say something, to make a speech, and Fielder -- who has been in major league clubhouses his whole life and is well-schooled on the need to keep an even keel, emotionally -- smiled. "All that talk stuff is for 'Hoosiers,'" he said. "This is reality."
The Tigers' reality is pretty dark right now: They are down three games to none and no team in history has ever come back from that deficit in the World Series.
Fielder and Cabrera are getting shackled, writes Tom Haudricourt.
Bad luck isn't to blame for the Tigers' demise, writes Drew Sharp.
The only way to describe the Tigers' offense is frigid.
The Tigers couldn't deliver, writes Tom Gage.
The Giants could set a World Series record tonight. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they haven't trailed in 54 consecutive innings. The record is 60 by the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
It might be even colder for tonight's game.
From ESPN Stats and Info, more about the Game 4 starting pitchers:
Matt Cain looked to have his stuff back in his last start against the Cardinals, helped by his ability to get outs when the count went to two strikes. In his first three starts of the postseason, Cain allowed seven hits (including three home runs) in two-strike counts. But in his last start, the Cardinals went 2-for-14 (both hits were singles) with four strikeouts. The key for Cain will be to use his fastball in two-strike counts, where opponents are hitting .087 (2-for-27) in two-strike at-bats ending with a fastball.
Max Scherzer gets the ball for the Tigers, and it's no secret that he is a power pitcher. While his average fastball velocity is down from the regular season (94.2 to 93.1 mph), Scherzer has still been effective with the heater, with opponents going 2-for-15 with eight strikeouts. In those 15 at-bats ending with a fastball this postseason, 12 of them have ended in a two-strike count at an average velocity of 94.1 mph, up 1.6 mph from his non-two-strike fastballs.
Mariano Rivera is reportedly uncertain about whether he will come back in 2013. It's possible, of course, that after being at home all summer for the first time that he is really torn by the idea of leaving home for another season. But keep this in mind: While Rivera is a beloved figure in the Yankees' organization and deeply respected, through the course of his career, the negotiations between the team and the pitcher have always been tough stuff. He and the Yankees went to arbitration, and just a couple of years ago, he threatened to leave the Yankees for the Red Sox, going so far as to bluff that he was about to board a plane to take a physical before signing with Boston.
So with Rivera headed into free agency again, it's possible this is all part of the next round of negotiations. The Yankees are probably going to ask him to shave his base salary down from $15 million, given his age and the fact that he's coming off a lost season, and maybe Rivera's statement that he's not sure he wants to come back is just the opening salvo in those conversations.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. The Rays will have to start making decisions right after the World Series, writes Marc Topkin.
3. The Orioles have scouted a teenager from Japan.
5. Jerry Manuel is part of the Rockies' managerial search.
6. An Angels minor league manager resigned.
7. The Padres released a couple of pitchers.
8. Alex Anthopoulos has a couple of busy weeks coming up.
9. Jeff Luhnow reveals his plan for building the Astros. They will be a fascinating team to watch because the operation of the team -- from the personnel to the game decisions -- will be mostly driven by statistical analysis.
By the Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information
1. The Giants are the first team to throw back-to-back shutouts in the same World Series since the 1966 Orioles did it in three straight games.
2. The Tigers were shut out a league-low two times during the regular season, but have now been shut out three times this postseason, including back-to-back games in the World Series. They are the first team to be shut out with five hits or fewer in back-to-back games in a single World Series since the 1921 Giants versus the Yankees.
" The Mariners' Mike Zunino is making progress.
" Mike Hazen says John Farrell manages it all.
" Rick Hahn is confident that Chicago can become a White Sox town again.
" Bud Selig wants the mayor of St. Petersburg to help the Rays with their ballpark situation.
And today will be better than yesterday.