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Tigers go silently in Game 2, head home in a scoring drought

Published: Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 9:27 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

(MCT) — SAN FRANCISCO — Doug Fister did something no Tiger had ever done.

But left-hander Madison Bumgarner did something no Giant had done since Christy Mathewson, and he beat Fister, 2-0, in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night at AT&T Park.

Fister, unfazed by a line drive off his head in the second inning, allowed one run in his six-plus innings.

But Bumgarner didn’t allow a run in his seven innings.

Research on Baseball-Reference.com showed what each pitcher accomplished.

Fister became the first Tiger ever to make five straight postseason starts in which he went at least five innings and allowed two runs or fewer.

Bumgarner became the first Giants pitcher since Mathewson in 1905 to not allow a run in his first two career starts in the World Series. Mathewson did that as part of his legendary three shutouts in 1905 against the A’s.

Bumgarner won because the Giants scored a walk-fueled run in the seventh then added another in the eighth. The Giants have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Series that might be even more commanding than it looks. Even if the Tigers sweep the next three games at home, they still have to win Game 6 or Game 7 without the DH in the Giants’ big and loud home park. In two games there, they’ve scored only one run before the ninth inning.

The Tigers put a runner to scoring position against Bumgarner only in the second. With none out in that inning, Prince Fielder was thrown out at the plate when third-base coach Gene Lamont waved him home on Delmon Young’s double down the left-field line.

A third-base coach is like a punter — if there’s a crowd of reporters around him, it’s probably not to talk about something that turned out well.

“I saw the ball bounce away from the left fielder,” Lamont told several writers in the clubhouse. “They made a perfect relay. I was wrong. If I had to do it over again, I can’t say I would have sent him.”

When a walk and a well-placed bunt allowed the Giants to break the scoreless tie in the seventh, Fister became what he was so often in his pre-Tigers days in Seattle: a loser when he pitched well because of poor run support.

Fister exited after he allowed Hunter Pence’s ground-ball leadoff single in the seventh on his 114th pitch. Rookie left-hander Drew Smyly replaced him to face left-handed power threat Brandon Belt.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked if going with Smyly instead of fellow left-hander Phil Coke was traceable to how Jose Valverde’s exit from the closer’s role has sent Coke into a different role, in the eighth and ninth.

“That had something to do with it obviously,” Leyland said, “but Smyly has been doing a good job. If Valverde was ready, (we) probably would have had Coke in that situation, but Smyly did fine.”

But Smyly did the one thing a reliever can’t do with his first hitter. He walked him.

Left-handed Gregor Blanco stayed in to sacrifice, and he put down a perhaps unplayable bunt that hugged the third-base line but wouldn’t roll foul. When it came to rest, the Giants had the bases loaded with none out.

“Nine times out of 10, that ball goes foul,” catcher Gerald Laird. “I don’t know if I get him if I pick it up right away. He runs well.”

The way Blanco has performed in this Series, both in the field and at the plate, epitomizes how the Giants coalesced and played better after Melky Cabrera — the league’s leading hitter — was suspended for a performance-enhancing-drug violation and Blanco took over for him in left.

Left-handed Brandon Crawford followed Blanco to the plate in the seventh. If the infield had then played in there — with the bases loaded and none out — a routine grounder could have become a two-run single. It would have been highly unconventional to bring the infield in; the only standard time to do so in that situation is if the runner on third represents the game-ending run in the ninth or later.

Leyland felt the Tigers couldn’t give up two runs, but would have a chance to get the tying run if Crawford grounded into a double play and a run scored. That’s exactly what Crawford did on a ball he hit to second baseman Omar Infante.

It was shades of the 1968 All-Star Game, when the only run scored as one Giants legend (Willie McCovey) hit into a double play on which another Giants legend (Willie Mays) scored.

In Bumgarner’s one previous World Series start, in Game 4 at Texas in 2010, he blanked the Rangers on three hits over his eight innings.

After Fielder was hit by a pitch to begin the second, Lamont sent him home when Young’s double down the left-field line bounced where Blanco wasn’t expecting it to. It was a gamble to send Fielder because there were none out and, if Fielder had held third, Jhonny Peralta and Avisail Garcia would have had a chance for an RBI with a fly ball or groundout.

“I think Gene just got a little overaggressive,” Leyland said. “We hadn’t been scoring runs other than in the final game against the Yankees, and we wanted to be aggressive, and I think he got just a little overaggressive.”

As the replays showed, Fielder was barely out at the plate, Blanco to second baseman Marco Scutaro to catcher Buster Posey, who tagged Fielder as he slid by. Bumgarner then dispatched Peralta and Garcia to strand Young at second.

With a runner on first and two out in the Giants second, Blanco hit a liner up the middle that deflected off the left side of Fister’s head and caromed high and landed in short center for a single. Not only did Fister not go down, he didn’t even show any effects of the blow. After a quick visit from athletic trainer Kevin Rand, he went back to work.

He walked Crawford, loading the bases, then retired Bumgarner on a pop-up. Fister didn’t allow another hit until the sixth.

In his post-game interview, Fister showed no concern or pride about pitching through the shot to the head. He talked about it like it was a soft grounder off his foot. He didn’t seem to feel any urgency about getting medical tests to make sure he was OK. His stoic toughness, put in its hottest glare yet, showed itself stronger than ever.

About 20 feet from where Fister talked to a horde of reporters, his teammate Don Kelly said:

“By no means did I expect him to stay in that game. He’s got guts. You talk about the last two games he’s pitched in the post-season. The one in New York, nobody made a big deal out of it, but he got drilled on his pitching hand (by Robinson Cano). It was swollen and he stayed in the game. Then he gets drilled in the head tonight. He’s tough.”

In his last two post-season starts, Fister has absorbed a second-inning liner up the middle and kept pitching scoreless ball. He’s left each game in the seventh with no runs on the board for the opposition. Yet he hasn’t won either game.

On Thursday night, everyone in the baseball world saw how tough Fister is.

But then he lost his first World Series start because he allowed one run, a run that scored on a double-play grounder.

So there was a familiar feeling for this tough man.

Tough luck.

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