There was a frightening play in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday.
In the second inning, the Giants’ Gregor Blanco hit a liner back up the middle that hit off the top of pitcher Doug Fister’s head and fell in front of center fielder Austin Jackson for a single.
The Tigers’ training staff rushed out to check on the Detroit pitcher, who appeared to be fine. Still, they asked him the usual questions.
Where are you at?
“San Francisco. Game 2.”
What inning is it?
What the hell was Gene Lamont thinking by sending Prince Fielder home on that double to left?
“I have no idea.”
Yep, he’s fine.
In game in which there were several key plays, the play in the top of the second loomed as the largest.
To set the scene: Fielder was on first base with no one out. Dmitri Young laces a double inside the third base bag. Blanco played the ball off the wall near the Giants bullpen as Lamont waved Fielder home.
From there, everything went perfectly for the Giants. Blanco hit cut-off man Marco Scutaro, Scutaro threw a strike to catcher Buster Posey, Posey applied a quick sweep tag to the sliding Fielder and umpire Dan Iassogna made a great — and correct — out call.
And while it took a perfect play to get Fielder, the decision to send him home was still questionable.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland called the decision “over-aggressive.” Even Lamont had second thoughts.
“If I had to do it over,” Lamont would say later, “I would have held him.”
That would have been the right call. It would have put runners on second and third and no outs — against a pitcher who had struggled in his previous two outings. And as the Giants would later show, you don’t need a hit to score a run.
But Lamont wasn’t totally at fault. On the slide at home, Fielder’s lead leg went right over the plate, and the first contact he had with the plate was his bent sliding leg, giving Posey a split-second more to apply the tag.
And then there was on-deck hitter Jhonny Peralta, who must have been too busy pondering why his first name is spelled the way it is to get into proper position to alert Fielder that the throw was coming to the inside of the plate and his slide should have been wide.
In a tight game, it’s the little things that can prove to be big.
And some good luck helps, too. Someone upstairs must like the black-and-orange.
The Tigers thought they got some good luck when Omar Infante’s bouncer into the hole at short handcufffed Brandon Crawford for an infield. Then, the luck changed.
Miguel Cabrera hit a rope to third base that was snagged by Pablo Sandoval. Then Fielder hit a shot to left that in many ballparks might have been a home run. In AT&T, it was a warning-track fly out.
Then in the seventh, the Giants started a rally with a single by Hunter Pence, who has been in a major funk at the plate this postseason. After Fister was lifted for lefty Doug Smyly, Brandon Belt worked a walk.
Blanco came up to bunt the runners over. After working the count to 3-1, Blanco dropped a bunt that traveled 40 feet along the dirt between the grass and the third-base line for an infield hit.
“I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, ‘We practiced that today,'” Blanco said. “That was a perfect bunt. I wasn’t really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be and I’m thankful that I did it.”
Was it his best bunt ever?
“It has to be,” Blanco said, “and I think the best at-bat of my career, too.”
With the bases loaded and no one out, Leyland decided to play the infield back. He got the double-play ball he was looking for from Brandon Crawford. But it allowed Pence to score the game’s first run.
In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases on walks to Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, giving Giants fans visions of the walk-aided seven-run eighth inning in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series vs. the Rangers.
But this time, Pence fell behind 0-2, as he has so often done this postseason. But this time instead of striking out, Pence fouled off a couple of pitches before lifting a fly ball to right center for a sacrifice fly and a 2-0 lead.
So the Giants lead the Tigers 2-0 in the series after scoring two runs on outs and getting seven shutout innings from Madison Bumgarner, who had an 11.25 ERA in the 2012 postseason entering the game.
They’ve got a double off the third base bag, a single that traveled 40 feet and a perfectly executed outfield relay play home.
The Giants have to be feeling pretty fortunate.
“Baseball’s so hard, this game’s about having luck,” Blanco said. “You can hit the ball 10 times with a line drive to center field and go 0 for 10.”
Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said: “You hate to say it, but sometimes you need some luck. I used to be one of those guys who said you create your own luck, but sometimes in this game that’s not the case and the ball has to bounce your way.”
So are the baseball gods shining on the Giants?
“I don’t know about baseball gods, but I’ll tell you one thing: I hope the ball keeps bouncing our way,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “It’s been huge for us.”