Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge

Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge
October 29, 2012, 8:06 am
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DETROIT -- The Giants bullpen spent all season answering questions about its legitimacy after the loss of closer Brian Wilson in April.

So it only seemed appropriate Sergio Romo and the crew answered one more query on Sunday night.

Romo closed out the 21st sweep in World Series history and put an exclamation point on another chapter of bullpen excellence with a strikeout of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the 10th inning of a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 at Comerica Park.

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Romo struck out all three batters he faced as he, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined for seven strikeouts in three shutout innings. Giants relievers finished the Series with a 1.54 ERA in 11 23 innings.

For Romo, the perfect final frame, one that ended as Cabrera watched an 89-mph fastball land in Buster Poseys mitt for a called third strike, was more affirmation his own doubts about his ability to handle the role were incorrect. Romo converted 18 of 19 save opportunities this season, including all four in the postseason.

It was quite the grind, quite the test, Romo said. I got asked to do something that I honestly felt was bigger than who I am and what I am. Just to be able to get it done, the confidence my teammates showed in me throughout the year, I feel beyond blessed.

Even after they lost Wilson to reconstructive elbow surgery in mid-April, the Giants confidence never wavered in their bullpen even though their wasnt a proven closer in the bunch. Wilson may have converted 163 saves over the previous four seasons, but manager Bruce Bochy still had Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez among others on which to rely.

Giants relievers posted a 3.56 ERA in the regular season and finished with 53 saves. Those figures only improved in the postseason and peaked in the World Series, when Giants relievers allowed two earned runs and two hits in 11 23 innings. Bolstered by the addition of two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, the bullpen struck out 17 Detroit hitters against two walks and a hit batter.

They found ways to finish games for us, starter Matt Cain said.

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Our bullpen has been unbelievable not only in the postseason, but the regular season, starter Madison Bumgarner said. When the postseason came they were even more locked in. We had 100 percent faith in them. We knew if it came to a matchup of bullpens we had a really good shot.

Game 4 provided the Giants with their first true battle of the bullpens. The Giants and Tigers were tied at 3 when Affeldt took over for Cain to start the eighth inning. After he started with a walk of Quintin Berry to start the frame, Affeldt went on to strike out Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in order.

The left-hander then struck out Andy Dirks to start the ninth inning and got Jhonny Peralta to fly out to deep center before Casilla entered the game.

(Affeldt) is going to go after you with everything he has got, especially in situations like this, fellow reliever Clay Hensley said. Hes a winner.

Romo has proven himself to have similar qualities even if its something he questioned. With a wipeout slider in tow, Romo allowed one run and four hits in 10 23 innings this postseason. He walked one batter and struck out nine.

But it was more than the numbers that displayed Romos grit. He survived a 12-pitch showdown against Jay Bruce in the NLDS clincher on Oct. 11 with the tying runs aboard and then silenced the Tigers on three separate occasions.

Even with Cabrera looming, Lopez said he had no doubt Romo would close out the Giants second World Series title in three seasons when he took the mound.

(Romo) has an unhittable slider and he throws strikes so I think thats what puts him in that spot, Lopez said. Hes a little man, but he pitches like hes a big man. Hes 180 pounds, if that, when hes soaking wet, and he goes out and pitches like hes 6-4, 250. The guys got it and he showed it tonight and all series.

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