10/29/12 3:12 AM ET
Sweet relief: Romo caps 'pen heroics with flourish
Closer's dominance highlights a splendid bullpen that kept the Tigers caged
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
Romo struck out Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson to open the bottom of the 10th inning at Comerica Park. Then he struck out pinch-hitter Don Kelly and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to save the 4-3 win that gave San Francisco a sweep of the 108th World Series without allowing a ball to be put into play or a runner to reach base.
The Giants won because they got terrific starting pitching. But each of the last three games was decided by two runs or fewer, and that's a pretty good sign that the bullpen was doing something pretty special, too.
Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and right-handers Santiago Casilla and Romo blanked the Tigers for three innings after seven strong frames by starter Matt Cain -- which was fitting, because each reliever ended the World Series with an 0.00 earned run average.
But it was Romo -- who worked his way into the closer's role after Brian Wilson was hurt two appearances into the season -- who stood out. He had three saves in the World Series and four in the postseason. In 10 2/3 playoff innings, he allowed just one run on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.
|Jonathan Papelbon||Red Sox||3||2007|
Romo became the seventh reliever to save at least three games in the Fall Classic. John Wetteland of the Yankees had four in 1996; Elroy Face (Pirates, 1960), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox, 2007), Troy Percival (Angels, 2002), Mariano Rivera (Yankees, 1998) and Kent Tekulve (Pirates, 1979) each had three.
"Sergio, he's a guy you want out there," said manager Bruce Bochy. "He's not afraid and commands the ball so well. Really, I know this is a play on words, but he saved us all year. When we lost Wilson, Casilla got the lion's share of the saves. And then we went by committee, and then eventually Sergio took over."
Bochy just shook his head at the thought of Romo striking out Cabrera, one of the most feared hitters in baseball.
"That at-bat, he just knew that Cabrera was probably looking for a slider, and he commands his fastball so well, and he located it," Bochy said. "Just amazing the job that he's done for us in these situations we put him in. He's never wavered, and he enjoys being out there. So we had the right guy, and I couldn't be prouder of Sergio and how he's emerged as such a great closer."
Romo declined to speak with the media to spend time with his family, but in a postgame interview on FOX, he said, "I feel very blessed. Beyond blessed. These guys let me tag along for the ride. Beyond blessed for sure."
The right-hander went 14-for-15 in save opportunities during the regular season and had a 1.79 ERA. With runners in scoring position, he held hitters to a .176 batting average.
"Gotta get the job done," he said. "They've relied on me and they've had confidence in me all year long to just do what I can do. Just be me on the mound. These guys let me be myself. They don't ever hold me back. They give me the confidence that I know I need out there and they know I need. The faith that they have in me, unreal. Couldn't let anyone down, especially anybody wearing orange and black."
But Romo wasn't the only Giants reliever who excelled against the Tigers.
Affeldt walked pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia to start the eighth before striking out the next four batters he faced.
"He did such a tremendous job down the stretch," Cain said. "He had kind of been struggling with some little injuries throughout the season. ... But then he started going out there with unbelievable stuff and really trusted his stuff. And with that sinker-curveball combo, he's really, really tough on righties and lefties."
After Affeldt's strikeout string was broken by a Jhonny Peralta fly ball that Angel Pagan flagged down on the warning track, Casilla came in. He hit Omar Infante with a pitch, breaking his hand, then got Gerald Laird to ground into an inning-ending force play.
Throw in the 4 2/3 hitless innings turned in by starter-turned-reliever Tim Lincecum in this World Series, and there's no doubt that the Giants' bullpen was an integral part of the seventh world championship in franchise history.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.