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Giants, Tigers pitched their way to the top

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Giants, Tigers pitched their way to the top

DETROIT (AP) When the San Francisco Giants scored twice off Detroit's Anibal Sanchez in the second inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Tigers fans at Comerica Park immediately grew edgy.

In this postseason, two runs can feel like 20.

``They're normally hard to come by in postseason, because you're going to face a good pitcher pretty much every night,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.

Leyland's observed that first hand this year. The Tigers reached the World Series thanks to a fabulous performance by the starting rotation - and they entered Game 4 on Sunday night on the verge of elimination for pretty much the same reason. San Francisco led the series 3-0 after shutting Detroit out in Games 2 and 3.

The composite ERA in baseball's postseason this year was 3.04 through Saturday night, the lowest since 1991, according to STATS, LLC. The Giants became the first team to throw back-to-back shutouts in the World Series since Baltimore blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers three times in a row in 1966.

That dangerous Detroit slugging tandem of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder? As quiet as Cabrera's bases-loaded popup in Game 3 - and his postgame departure without speaking to reporters.

``The biggest thing is taking care of the guys in front of them,'' said Giants right-hander Matt Cain, who was set to start the potential clincher Sunday. ``If you can get the first two guys out in front of them ... it just makes it a little bit easier stress-wise. When you've got a couple guys on with Cabrera or Fielder or (Delmon) Young ... things aren't going so well. So you've got to focus on the guys in front of them, as well. It's just not the guys in the middle.

It didn't seem like anyone would top what Justin Verlander and the Tigers did on the mound through the first two rounds of the postseason. The Detroit ace allowed one run over two division series starts against Oakland, shutting out the Athletics in the decisive fifth game. In the AL championship series against the New York Yankees, the Tigers gave up only six runs in a four-game sweep - and four of them were against closer Jose Valverde in one inning of Game 1.

At one point, Detroit's starters went 30 1-3 innings without allowing a run, a record for a single postseason. Then the World Series began, and the Giants made a bid for some history of their own.

After three games, San Francisco's World Series ERA was 1.00, the lowest since Baltimore's 0.50 in 1966, according to STATS. The only team to post a lower ERA in the Fall Classic than those Orioles was the New York Giants, who did not allow a single earned run in the 1905 Series in their five-game win over the Philadelphia Athletics.

San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong has become the third pitcher to make four straight starts in a single postseason in which he allowed no more than one run. Tim Lincecum has provided a lift out of the bullpen. Even Barry Zito has pitched well lately for the Giants.

``I've been watching these guys all year,'' San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford said. ``They're a lot of fun to play around. They all go out there and compete, throw all their pitches for strikes. It's easy to play defense for them.''

With the Giants a win from another World Series title, the Tigers were putting their hopes in the prospects of an improbable rally. It didn't look likely, but Detroit's own rotation was a decent straw for the Tigers to grasp at.

Max Scherzer was scheduled to pitch Game 4, followed by Verlander, Doug Fister and Sanchez. It was a foursome certainly capable of leading a four-game comeback - if the Tigers could only start scoring.

``It is extremely impressive what we were able to do through pretty much the entire postseason as a staff,'' Verlander said. ``And obviously the Giants all year, their team was built on good pitching and defense and scoring opportune runs. That recipe has led to postseason success for them thus far.

``Obviously it's going to be tough to beat a team like that four in a row, but if anybody is capable of it, we are.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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