This time, Giants enjoying enviable position
Clawing back all postseason, club takes 2-0 lead to Detroit with top arms on tap
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dancing in the streets of San Francisco might be mildly premature, but at this point it would also be completely understandable.
The Giants are sitting pretty. They are in the driver's seat. They are not a mortal lock to win the 2012 World Series, but they have moved into mortal lock's neighborhood, and they have brought along their extended families.
The Giants took a 2-0 Series lead Thursday night with a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers at AT&T Park. The Giants received yet another brilliant pitching performance, this one from Madison Bumgarner. With all due respect to Bumgarner and Game 1 winner Barry Zito, an objective examination of the recent work of the four-man postseason rotation would put Zito and Bumgarner third and fourth.
And that is where the good news gets even better for the Giants. For Games 3 and 4 in Detroit, they have lined up their starters who have recently been most effective: Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. The Giants will be on the road, but the way they are pitching, they can win, even in what the people in Upper Michigan call Lower Michigan.
|2011||Rangers||Giants in 5|
|1954||Cardinals||Giants in 4|
|1933||Senators||Giants in 5|
|1922||Yankees||Giants in 4|
All redundancy acknowledged, the three keys to winning postseason baseball remain pitching, pitching and pitching. And in the last five games, the Giants have had it. They had it in the remarkable comeback against St. Louis in the National League Championship Series, and they have had it right here in the first two games of the Fall Classic.
The Giants limited the Cardinals -- who were the NL's second-highest scoring team in the regular season -- to one run over those last three games. San Francisco received terrific starts from Zito, Vogelsong and Cain in the last three NLCS games, along with the usual exemplary bullpen work.
Not a false step was taken as the Giants moved to the World Series. Zito delivered again. Bumgarner followed suit -- throwing seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks, striking out eight.
The thing was, Bumgarner's most recent work had not been of much comfort to the Giants. He had two losses in two postseason starts along with an 11.25 ERA. He missed a turn to work on his mechanics. The work obviously was productive work. Bumgarner emerged with, as Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday night, a delivery that was "a little simpler, more compact, and I think he was able to get the ball where he wanted tonight because of that."
When Bumgarner was asked if it felt different in this game as opposed to his two previous starts in this postseason, he replied: "Yeah, I went into the seventh inning instead of getting taken out in the third."
Mad about MadBum
Bumgarner got big laughs for that line from his audience of reporters. This is usually a tough crowd, or at least a crowd in a hurry to finish work. But Bumgarner was on point with a droll, down-home description that was long on both humor and accuracy.
This is the situation. It is a pleasant situation, so a light review will not hurt. The Giants are up 2-0 in the World Series. All of their starting pitchers are now working very well. So is their bullpen. And the two starters who have recently been the most effective, Vogelsong and Cain, are scheduled to pitch in Games 3 and 4 at Comerica Park.
This has all the appearances of an October feast for the Giants. The salad greens were crisp, the soup was tasty, it's been a wonderful meal already, and the main course hasn't even arrived yet. But, but, the Giants and their faithful fans know that nothing can be taken for granted.
This is another part of the inner beauty of the evolution of this Giants story. They know all this, because just days ago they were on the other side of the story. Twice. They were down, 2-0, in the NLDS. They were down, 3-1, in the NLCS. They are not going to forget about how quickly and completely these postseason events can turn.
|Jim Lonborg||Red Sox||1967||17|
|Duster Mails||Indians||1920||15 2/3|
|Bruce Hurst||Red Sox||1986||15|
Outfielder Hunter Pence, who has emerged as a vocal leader of this club, was asked if the team's fundamental approach would change, being up 2-0. Pence provided the correct answer.
"No, absolutely not," Pence said. "I feel like we've gained a lot of strength from what we had to overcome to get to this point. You know, we're riding a little bit of a confidence and a momentum and an understanding. I feel like everyone is on the same page, and we're just going out there and really playing as hard as we can for each other.
"At the end of the day, everyone seems focused, everyone seems locked in, and there's going to be more adversity to come. It's the World Series; there's going to be more moments, good moments, and we just want to go out there and meet them together."
Sounds like a really solid plan. That should do it, along with at least two more doses of terrific postseason pitching. This isn't the finish line for the Giants, but you can see the finish line from here without a great big telescope or an overactive imagination.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.