Stout pitching carries Giants to 2-0 Series lead

Stout pitching carries Giants to 2-0 Series lead

Stout pitching carries Giants to 2-0 Series lead
SAN FRANCISCO -- Thursday night at AT&T Park had a 2010 feel, and not just because ex-Journey crooner Steve Perry appeared live on the scoreboard while "Lights" played during the middle of the eighth inning.

The Giants' starting pitching is again muting opposing offenses, just as it did two years ago when the club won its first World Series since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. Madison Bumgarner continued this re-enactment, yielding two hits in seven innings as San Francisco captured Game 2 of the current Series with a 2-0 decision over the Detroit Tigers.

Having scored 28 runs in their previous four games, the Giants resorted to small ball this time. They shattered a scoreless tie in the seventh inning on Brandon Crawford's bases-loaded double-play grounder -- which followed Gregor Blanco's improbable bunt single -- and added an eighth-inning run without benefit of a hit.

San Francisco grabbed a 2-0 lead in the Series, which resumes Saturday in Detroit. Of the 52 previous teams to win the first two Series games, 41 (78.8 percent) ultimately bathed and showered in champagne. Fourteen of the last 15 teams that forged ahead 2-0 in the Series won it.

But the Giants refused to assume anything.

"Look at what we were able to do the last couple of series," right-hander Sergio Romo said, referring to the Giants' six consecutive victories in elimination games. "You definitely can't count that team out. They're American League champions. Those guys were picked to be here from the get-go for a reason. So you don't count them out."

If anybody has earned a reputation, it's San Francisco's starters. They've affirmed their legitimacy by posting a 0.55 ERA during the Giants' five-game postseason winning streak, a franchise best. Two years ago, San Francisco sailed through the postseason with a 2.23 ERA from the starters.

"They talk about our starting rotation for a reason," Romo said. "It's fitting that they've done as well as they have."

Thursday's shutout of Detroit, which included perfect innings by relievers Santiago Casilla and Romo, was a significant achievement. The Tigers were blanked twice in the regular season, fewest in the Major Leagues.

It began with Bumgarner, who wasn't supposed to display such effectiveness. He recorded an 11.25 ERA while losing his previous two postseason starts. Bumgarner also struggled in his last seven regular-season outings, going 2-4 with a 5.73 ERA in that span.

But the Bumgarner who took the mound on another calm night by the Bay resembled the Bumgarner who worked eight scoreless innings at Texas in Game 4 of the 2010 Series. If that performance announced Bumgarner's presence to the baseball world, this one reaffirmed it.

"Every pitch felt pretty good tonight," said Bumgarner, who was temporarily moved to the bullpen while he corrected flaws in his delivery. "It felt a lot better than it has been the last few games."

Despite striking out eight, a personal postseason best, Bumgarner threw only 86 pitches. That was largely due to his efficient work in the fourth and fifth innings, when he hurled eight and nine pitches, respectively.

The sixth inning particularly satisfied Bumgarner, who issued a two-out walk to Austin Jackson before striking out Omar Infante. Looking down to avoid appearing too demonstrative, Bumgarner bellowed twice in triumph.

Tigers starter Doug Fister pitched admirably, yielding just four singles in six-plus innings. Fister avoided serious injury in the second inning, when Blanco hit a line drive that struck the right side of Fister's head and flew into center field. The impact was apparently glancing enough to enable Fister to remain in the game until he yielded Hunter Pence's leadoff single in the seventh inning.

That galvanized the Giants, who soon had the bases loaded with nobody out. Left-hander Drew Smyly relieved Fister and walked Brandon Belt on a 3-2 pitch. Attempting to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt, Blanco and the Giants received a bonus when he tapped a 3-1 pitch that resulted in a trickler up the third-base line. Catcher Gerald Laird, third baseman Miguel Cabrera and plate umpire Dan Iassogna hounded the ball until it stopped, still fair.

Blanco was exultant as he reached first base.

"I was jumping and saying, 'Yeah! I did it!' I was so excited," he said. "It was a great bunt, just because of the situation."

Crawford grounded into a double play, which doused the rally but scored Pence. It also prompted questioning of Detroit manager Jim Leyland's decision to play the infield back.

"We felt like we couldn't give [the Giants] two runs," Leyland said. "That's why we did that, and we got the double play. To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run. I mean, we had to score anyway."

They didn't, though the Giants did on Pence's bases-loaded, eighth-inning sacrifice fly that followed three walks.

Detroit just missed scoring in the second inning, when Bumgarner struck Prince Fielder with a pitch and Delmon Young doubled to left field. The ball caromed off the wall away from Blanco, who managed to recover it quickly. Blanco threw on the fly to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who had wandered to the infield's left side. Backing up shortstop Crawford on a double cutoff, Scutaro took the relay near third base and fired an accurate throw home, where catcher Buster Posey tagged a sliding Fielder on the right heel a millisecond before he crossed the plate. Bumgarner retired Jhonny Peralta and Avisail Garcia to strand Young.

"It's just like how we were taught," Crawford said.

Such execution, Leyland said, explained San Francisco's advantage in this Series.

Asked if he thought the Giants were receiving all the breaks, Leyland responded, "Well, No. 1, I don't think they're getting any breaks. I think they've earned everything they've got. You got a freak play that hit the bag yesterday [Angel Pagan's double], but that's the game. ... Up to this point, they've outplayed us. They did a little bit better than us today. They did quite a bit better than us yesterday.

"... They're playing like the Giants play, and we expected that coming in. They're good. They're really good."

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.