Things were looking up for the Tigers in the second inning of Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night.
Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner — he of the 11.25 ERA in previous 2012 postseason games — had just hit leadoff batter Prince Fielder.
Delmon Young then smoked a double down the left-field line that bounced off a wall and jetted out in foul territory before left fielder Gregor Blanco finally picked it up. Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont saw an opportunity in the making and sent Fielder home with the windmill action of his left arm.
Fielder, faster than almost anybody his size, rounded third and began picking up and laying down his feet as quickly as he could. Second baseman Marco Scutaro, the second cutoff man — positioned on the outfield grass in front of shortstop Brandon Crawford — took Blanco’s throw and fired a strike to catcher Buster Posey, whose sweeping tag nailed Fielder.
“Gene just got a little over-aggressive,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Lamont’s decision to send Fielder. “It was a bang-bang play, and the umpire made a great call in a tough situation.”
Had Fielder used a fade slide instead of coming straight in, he likely would have been safe. But on-deck batter Jhonny Peralta committed the second sin of the play and did nothing to motion Fielder in regard to where he needed to slide.
“He overthrew Crawford, and Scutaro made a great throw,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “For us, it’s all about executing.
“I thought he would score, to be honest. It took two perfect throws to get him.”
Even though the throw by Blanco missed the intended cutoff man, the Giants completed the first 7-4-2 relay for an out in World Series history.
“Yeah, I thought I was safe,” Fielder said. “I didn’t feel the tag. I thought I was able to get in there, but unfortunately, I wasn’t.”
Lamont had taken a chance and ended up having the first out of the inning occur at home. That’s a huge no-no in baseball.
Still, Fielder stood by his coach and said, “It takes away momentum, but you have to be aggressive and it took a perfect throw.”
Instead of having a struggling pitcher on the ropes, with runners on second and third with nobody out, they had Young on second with one out. The threat ended with Peralta popping out and Avisail Garcia striking out.
The Tigers had just one other hit for the night — a leadoff infield single in the fourth by Omar Infante — and never had another runner in scoring position.
If Detroit can’t battle back from their 2-0 hole in the World Series, the second inning of Game 2 will haunt them. An inning that went up in smoke and then a seventh-inning bunt that wouldn’t roll foul told the tale for the Tigers.
Blanco’s bunt single loaded the bases with nobody out against rookie left-hander Drew Smyly, who replaced starter Doug Fister after he allowed a leadoff single to Hunter Pence. The bunt was headed toward the chalk, and catcher Gerald Laird wisely let it roll. But it suddenly began rolling away from the line and came to rest fair, near the infield grass.
Crawford then hit into a double play, with Leyland electing to play his infielders back, and the Giants took a 1-0 lead.
Leyland said he played it that way because “we couldn’t give them two runs” and added that he was “absolutely thrilled” to get out of that jam with just one run allowed.
The Giants added an insurance run in the eighth for a 2-0 win, one night after a victory with a big inning that began with a double ricocheting off third base.
“They’re definitely getting the breaks,” Fielder said. “But they also play good baseball. Now we’ve got to get the breaks at home.”
Detroit, going home after the losses in San Francisco, is 4-0 at Comerica Park in the postseason with a cumulative 18-7 scoring advantage.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall before,” said Fister, the hard-luck loser with a 1.40 ERA in the postseason. “So we don’t lack for confidence or trust in one another.
“We’re going to go win three and come back (to San Francisco).”