Madison Bumgarner channeled his success in the 2010 World Series and the Giants made big plays from spectacular to bizarre to beat the Detroit Tigers 2-0 on Thursday and also take a 2-0 World Series lead back to Detroit.
Now, the Giants will have their two top starters in the postseason, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, ready to go in games 3 and 4. It’s too early to celebrate, but the Giants are definitely in the driver’s seat.
The game hinged on two plays. In the fourth inning, Prince Fielder was the first Tiger to reach base when he was hit by a pitch. When a double by Delmon Young bounced around in the left field corner, getting past Gregor Blanco at first, Fielder was waved around third base and lumbered toward home, all 300 pounds of him. As he slid past Buster Posey, the Giants’ catcher tagged him on his ample rear a split second before Fielder’s foot touched home.
That prevented the Tigers from taking the first lead of the game, a very important factor as Bumgarner and Detroit starter Doug Fister kept putting up zeroes, though Fister was hit in the head by a line drive off Blanco’s bat in the third. Amazingly, Fister shook it off and kept pitching.
So, it was the Giants who scored the first run of the game in the seventh, helped by the strangest play of the night. With runners on first and second, Blanco pushed a bunt down the third-base line that appeared to be going foul but, as the Tigers watched helplessly, it spun around in the dirt and stopped cold — and fair.
That loaded the bases with nobody out and put Detroit manager Jim Leyland in an untenable situation. If he had brought his infielders in, the Tigers would probably only have gotten one out. He chose instead to play them at double-play depth and they got the double play, but a run scored.
The way Bumgarner was pitching, that was enough. The 23-year-old left-hander had been bombed in his first two outings in the postseason and Giants manager Bruce Bochy had skipped his next turn in the rotation. Some theorized that Bumgarner was tired after pitching more innings than he ever had in a season. Apparently, though, it was simply a matter of his pitching motion. He had dropped his arm down and his pitches were flattening out.
Working in the bullpen with pitching coach Dave Righetti, he fixed that flaw and he dominated the Detroit lineup which had trampled the New York Yankees in the ALCS and had been shut out only once during the regular season.
Bumgarner gave up only two hits and struck out eight in seven innings.
The Giants got one more run in the eighth that was largely a product of Angel Pagan’s base running. Pagan stole second which forced Leyland to walk Pablo Sandoval intentionally, Posey was walked unintentionally and Hunter Pence hit a sacrifice fly to score the second run.
It wasn’t really needed because Sergio Romo closed out the Tigers in the ninth with ruthless efficiency. The Tigers now have two days to figure out what’s happening. They haven’t had a clue so far.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.