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Cain looks ahead to starting Game 4

DETROIT -- Winter is making its upcoming arrival known in these parts, what with the frigid temperatures that have fallen upon Motown.

But if the Tigers don't change the current course of this World Series on Sunday night, their winter will arrive immediately. And it would be a long one.

History tells us that we are on the cusp of a Giant celebration, and only the Tigers can prove otherwise. For them, Game 4 at Comerica Park (8 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:15 first pitch) is their last chance to make this some semblance of a series. Otherwise, the Giants, who hold a 3-0 edge in the best-of-seven Fall Classic, will walk away with their second title in three years.

Right now, neither team wants to focus on the lopsided ledger. The Tigers want to keep their confidence, the Giants want to keep their cool.

"If we start thinking about that kind of stuff, things can get weird," San Francisco reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "And we don't want them to get weird."

The Giants have shown how weird postseason play can be. They have twice rallied from the brink of elimination to get to this point, and they know Detroit is capable of doing the same.

But what has transpired thus far this series -- Justin Verlander getting shelled and the offense going AWOL -- has created a stunned silence in that Tigers clubhouse.

"Obviously," Prince Fielder said, "you don't visualize this."

Detroit knows the history at play here: In 23 tries, no team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the Fall Classic.

Not only that, but 20 of those 23 teams lost Game 4, while the other three were finished off in five. So to even force a Game 6 would be historic.

San Francisco, then, is in pretty darned good shape. Oh, and this would be a good time to note that the National League champs have their best pitcher, Matt Cain, taking the mound in Game 4.

Cain has not necessarily been at his sharpest in three starts this postseason, but he was the pitcher of record when the Giants nailed down Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the Reds and Game 7 of the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals.

That's just one reason why manager Bruce Bochy considers Cain to be a clutch performer.

"I think your great players, for the most part, are those type of players," Bochy said. "They seem to play better when the club needs them. The higher the stakes, the more they do elevate their game -- hitters, pitchers and I certainly would put Matt Cain in that class."

Funny thing is, it's Cain who has big shoes to fill. After all, the three men who preceded him in the World Series rotation set quite a precedent -- one earned run allowed with 14 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.

Looking back over the past six postseason games (one of which was started by Cain), San Francisco's starters have posted a 0.47 ERA. Early in this postseason, the Giants were winning in spite of some shaky starts. Now, those starters are setting a triumphant tone.

For the Tigers, Game 4 starter Max Scherzer could follow the precedent set by the strong starts we've seen from Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez. Scherzer gives Detroit an opportunity. He was arguably as good as Verlander in the second half of the season. And in two starts this postseason, Scherzer has allowed just one earned run on five hits with 18 strikeouts in 11 innings.

But Scherzer's presence won't matter a lick if those Tigers bats don't get going.

Don't blame the weather for Detroit's lifeless bats, because they were slumping in San Francisco, too. For the series, the Tigers are 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position -- a far cry from their Major League-leading .286 average in those situations in the regular season.

"To win games," Alex Avila said, "you've got to be able to play good defense, get good pitching and get timely hits. We've gotten two out of those three. So we've just got to find a way to get hits with guys in scoring position."

The Tigers have only scored in two innings this entire series, and they have become the first team to get shut out in consecutive World Series games since the 1966 Dodgers.

And don't tell Detroit, but those Dodgers, for the record, were swept by the Orioles.

"You don't really have to tell them anything," manager Jim Leyland said of his club. "They can count. We know they're down three games to zero. There's no secret formula or message for them. They're big guys, they know what the situation is, and 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."

So far, this series is following the pattern of the three others that pitted a team that swept its LCS against one that needed seven games in the LCS round to advance. The 1988 A's, 2007 Rockies and, yes, the 2006 Tigers all had that extra rest afforded by the four-game sweep in the LCS, only to lose the Fall Classic in five or fewer games.

If there's going to be a fifth game in this one, Detroit needs to get to work. The stakes were raised this season the day owner Mike Ilitch committed $214 million to Prince Fielder. From that day forward, it's been World Series or bust. But the Tigers have run into a Giants team that has proven its postseason mettle and also proven that it doesn't need to be facing elimination to be at its best on this stage.

Now it's Detroit facing elimination. And if the Tigers don't deliver Sunday night, winter will arrive here in the Motor City. Comments