It's all coming up aces for Bruce Bochy.
The San Francisco Giants manager was forced to delay using his two most effective starters, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, in Games 3 and 4 of the World Series because it took seven games to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. Thanks to starters Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner, two of his biggest question marks coming into the series, his team is up 2-0 and well-positioned to win its second World Series in three years.
The Giants beat the Detroit Tigers 2-0 at AT&T Park on Thursday night, scoring their first run in the seventh inning on a bases-loaded double-play grounder off the bat of Brandon Crawford – with the infield playing back.
Yes, it was that kind of night. Hunter Pence delivered the insurance run on a sacrifice fly with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth, flicking out his bat to foul off a 0-2 pitch that would have been a strike to keep the at-bat alive.
The Giants are doing everything right. The Tigers are doing things like sending Prince Fielder home from first base on a double with none out in the second inning. It worked three times this season for third base coach Gene Lamont, but on Thursday Fielder was tagged out at home despite the fact that Giants catcher Buster Posey gave him the entire back side of the plate.
Tigers starter Doug Fister scattered four hits over six innings, striking out three and walking one before the pitch count caught up to him. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, who had an 11.25 earned-run average in two postseason starts and hadn't pitched in 10 days after being moved to the bullpen, shackled the Tigers, who managed a pair of hits while striking out eight and walking two. He threw 86 pitches, coming out for pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot with the bases loaded in the seventh.
The bullpen kept the door shut, with closer Sergio Romo needing 11 pitches to retire the side in the ninth.
Fister figured in a scary moment in the second inning, when Gregor Blanco of the Giants lined a ball off the the side of his head. The ball deflected into centre field and Fister merely shrugged as he walked back to the mound, Tigers manager Jim Leyland and trainer Kevin Rand went out to the mound, but Fister was allowed to stay in the game after throwing two warm-up pitches.
Given the fact the game was on national television, and given the importance of concussion awareness in sports, it's a safe bet that Major League Baseball found itself with a talking point for Friday's off-day.
Baseball has a concussion protocol in place, with a seven-day disabled list specially for concussions. But most of the protocol focuses on post-collision analysis, or analysis after plays such as the line drive that struck the Oakland Athletics' Brandon McCarthy in early September, resulting in a week-long hospital stay after two hours of surgery for a skull fracture, epidural hemorrhage and brain contusion. In-game incidents such as Fister's are a grey area. There has been talk about some type of protective head-gear for pitchers, or going so far as mandating a pitcher be removed immediately for testing.
The results suggested Fister was fine, although that's not really the point. After walking Brandon Crawford, he retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced. But they worked him for long at-bats, and after Pence singled to open the seventh, Leyland brought in rookie left-hander Drew Swyly – who prompted walked left-hand hitting Brandon Belt on a 3-1 breaking pitch. Blanco bunted the bases full, rolling a ball down the third base line a few feet from home plate that stayed fair as catcher Gerald Laird, Smyly and third baseman Miguel Cabrera stood over it.
The Giants scored on Crawford's double-play, which came with Leyland playing his infield back, preferring giving up the run instead of playing the infield in and risking a big inning, but for that to pay off somebody on the team must get a hit. And like everything else, that's not happening for the Tigers right now.