Last night, he was back on the mound in game two of the 2012 World Series against the Detroit Tigers. He picked up the win again, going seven innings, giving up just two hits and no runs, helping the Giants take a 2-0 lead in the series. In his two World Series starts, he’s gone fifteen innings and given up just five hits. Must be nice to be Madison Bumgarner.
I don’t know what the historical statistics say (and I don’t want to pay Baseball Reference to find just one stat), but I can’t imagine there have been many World Series games in which a team was two-hit in the last forty years or so. And I’m not sure there was a better performance in World Series history after being passed over for a start in the playoff series before. Whatever was in Bumgarner’s mechanics that turned him from the second best starting pitcher for the Giants in the regular season to a batting practice puss soft tosser was fixed Thursday night. While Bumgarner was up in the strike zone at times, it didn’t hurt him because he was hitting the outside corner with his fast ball and the inside corner with his breaking ball. It was a Barry Zito-esque performance if Bumgarner could take about five to six miles per hour off his fastball and even more off his breaking ball.
But here’s what’s scary about what’s next for the Detroit Tigers: the two pitchers the Giants consider their big-game pitchers right now are coming next. Ryan Vogelsong throws Saturday night in Detroit against Anibal Sanchez, who historically throws well against the Giants with two complete game shutouts and a 1.98 ERA in five starts. Matt Cain faces Max Scherzer on Sunday night. Vogelsong has yet to give up a run in his two postseason starts. It’s an underrated pitching match-up, just like this one was.
Doug Fister and Madison Bumgarner dueled brilliantly. Fister used a sweeping breaking ball and a moving fastball to keep the Giants hitters off-balanced and out in front all night. Not even a Gregor Blanco line drive off his head could stop him.
But the Giants made him work. And his manager probably left him in the game too long. He was up and over one-hundred pitches by the top of the 7th inning before giving up a base hit to Hunter Pence to start the inning. His replacement, Drew Smyly walked Brandon Belt in a long at bat and then he was Blanco’d.
Gregor Blanco has been in the right place at the right time in the playoffs. The entire reason he’s playing right now is because he was the team’s fourth outfielder when Melky Cabrera failed his medicine test. He’s made amazing catches, including two last night, and also helped gun down Price Fielder at the plate in the top of the second inning. With two runners on and no outs, Blanco pushed a bunt down the third base line that somehow stayed fair. A Brandon Crawford double play ground ball scored the run to make it 1-0. Jim Leyland decided to play the infield back rather than in to save the run. The smart play was to keep the infield back since hard hit ground balls that might not be hits become hits to drawn-in infields all the time. But I have a hunch that in the same situation, Bruce Bochy would’ve played his infield in.
It was the only run the Giants would need even though they tacked on a second run in the 8th on a Pence sacrifice fly.
Back to the play that I referenced above concerning Prince Fielder. Fielder was hit on his elbow guard to start the second inning. Delmon Young hit a double down the left field line that ricocheted away from Blanco. Fielder hustled around second base and was surprisingly sent home by third base coach Gene Lamont. Blanco’s throw missed Crawford who was the cut-off man. But Marco Scutaro came all the way over from second base to back up the throw and nailed Fielder at the plate.
There are two things that I found interesting on the play. First, I thought it was Crawford who made the relay throw. I was chatting with my dad on my Giants Facebook page and he let me know that it was actually Scutaro who made the throw. Once Young was on second, it allowed Scutaro to range over toward third. I thought it was a little overzealous on his part because he may have just been in the way. But he was in the perfect spot. It’s not like Blanco was far from home plate. And I think Crawford may have even gone out too far into left field, misjudging the ricochet himself. So, while there may have been two small defensive mistakes on the play, Blanco’s throw and Scutaro’s relay made up for it.The second is Prince Fielder’s slide home. We all know that Buster Posey doesn’t block the plate. AJ Pierzynski and Tim McCarver who both played catcher in the big leagues argued whether or not Posey decided to stay on the inside of the baseline to give Scutaro the better throw or simply because he didn’t want the collision. The Bay Area Sports Guy put up a transcript of their argument. I don’t really have a problem with Buster taking the inside lane because that’s what he’s been told to do and the fact is, he tagged Fielder out. My issue is with Fielder. He knows that Posey is going to sit on the inside. He needs to slide to the outer part of the plate, maybe even sliding past the plate so that he can tag it with his hand. The only reason Buster is able to tag him is because he slid right over the plate. Maybe he was tired. But the Giants aren’t making those types of mistakes and it’s a big reason they won game two.
Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect 8th and Sergio Romo a perfect 9th. Romo was so good that my 11-year old called him, “nasty”. He also wants to close a game next year in little league just so he can enter the game to the same song Romo does, El Mechon.
Like I mentioned above, the Giants have the two pitchers they most want pitching the next two games, with a little wiry right-hander to use in the bullpen to get huge outs. However, they’re in an unfamiliar situation. Rather than being down two games, they’re up two games. Will they have the same hunger in these next two games that they had in their two previous series’? The Tigers need to get back to their ace Justin Verlander. That means winning at least one out of the next two games and with the way Sanchez pitches against the Giants, game three should be a nail biter like this was. The Detroit fans will be amped since it’s their first World Series home game since game 2 of the 2006 World Series.
The Giants would like to win at least two out of the next three games in Detroit so that they don’t have to come back home. And they’ve been a tremendous road team in the playoffs so far. If Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain can follow the path that Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner have paved for them, they will have their chances. It will be up to Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer to stop a hot team who is doing the right things. And next time, someone tell Prince Fielder to slide away from the catcher.