No more. Bumgarner tweaked his mechanics and reinvented himself as a stud, which currently helps him fit in with a unflappable Giants starting staff. The 23-year-old left-hander delivered seven innings of two-hit ball in San Francisco’s 2-0 victory over Detroit in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday, and the Giants somehow cobbled together a run in the seventh against equally stout Doug Fister — who took a line drive directly off his head, yet kept on pitching.
Fister’s effort — pitching into the seventh of a then-scoreless game after taking Gregor Blanco’s liner and all but heading it into shallow center field — fell somewhere between alarming and admirable. Game 2, as it transpired, was about the two starting pitchers, because Fister matched Bumgarner by at one point retiring 12 consecutive Giants.
But because Game 2 ended as it did — with the Giants scoring the winning run in the seventh on a blessed-by-the-gods bunt and a bases-loaded double-play ball — the series is now about the Giants and their starting pitching, which flew to Detroit with a two-games-to-none lead.
“I came in with the mind today that today was going to be the biggest game of the series,” said Blanco, who started a key relay to gun down a Tigers’ threat at the plate, then laid down the bunt in the seventh that loaded the bases and set up the winning run. “I think if we win this game, they’re going to feel under pressure after this. The way we’ve been playing, we’ll see what happens in Detroit.”
What is sure to happen: The Giants will roll out a starting pitcher who feels great about his last start. Since Zito replaced Bumgarner, who began the postseason with two poor outings, for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, San Francisco starters have gone 5-0. They have allowed two runs in 33 innings, a 0.55 ERA. And now Bumgarner, once banished, is back in the act, because through seven innings he struck out eight and faced two men more than the minimum.
“Over the last three years, the pitching’s been strong enough that it keeps the team on its toes,” General Manager Brian Sabean said, “because they know they have a chance to win almost every single game.”
They are doing so at the moment. Win 8-3 behind the power of Pablo Sandoval’s three homers, as the Giants did in Game 1, and the AT&T Park crowd can relax. Win 2-0 behind pitching, as the Giants did in Game 2, and the fans must decide whether to stand and shout or sit and squirm.
“It’s our style, really,” Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s been like that for a few years here. We play a lot of close games, and these guys are used to it.”