Later, the Giants cut down gargantuan Prince Fielder trying to lumber all the way from first to home on a Delmon Young double, thanks to a gorgeous double relay from Gregor Blanco to Marco Scutaro to Buster Posey — 320-feet of rope-like pegs from the left field corner to home plate that may not have taken three seconds.
Third base coach Gene Lamont probably killed the Tigers’ best chance for a big inning, sending Fielder when Detroit would have had men on second and third base with no outs. “Gene was just a little over-aggressive,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. “We haven’t been scoring many runs lately. . . . The ump made an absolute great call in a tough situation.”
In the final piece of inside baseball, Leyland decided to concede a run in a 0-0 game, playing the infield back with the bases loaded and none out in the seventh inning. Even though the Giants grounded the ball directly to second base, the Tigers had already made their bed — two outs on a double play traded for one run — and then had to lie in it. They were behind, 1-0. That never changed. An insurance run, a Sergio Romo save and their night was done.
“We were absolutely thrilled to get out of that inning with just one run,” Leyland said. “No, it’s not debatable to me.”
In many past World Series, road teams in the Tigers’ position sometimes didn’t seem to understand the urgency of escaping with a split. That wasn’t the case this time. The Tigers, especially Fister, truly did compete like the series was on the line. In the second inning, Blanco ripped a line drive back at the 6-foot-8 Fister that hit the pitcher on the right side of his head, perhaps an inch above the ear. As the crowd gasped and Fister crumpled to one knee, the ball ricocheted high in the air and landed 100 feet behind second base.
To universal disbelief, Fister acted as if nothing at all had happened. He didn’t even take off his hat to check his hair. He walked the next man to load the bases then got Bumgarner to pop up.
Thus Fister became the first pitcher in World Series history to escape a bases-loaded jam and a fractured skull in the same inning. Then he retired the next dozen Giants hitters in a row.
“I was scared to death when it happened,” Leyland said. “But he was fine. They were asking him all kinds of questions [on the mound]. He was saying, ‘San Francisco,’ ‘second game.’ It was almost funny he got the answers [so fast]. He was pretty blase about it.”
Nonetheless, Leyland watched him closely. “You never know if there’s a later reaction. Maybe an hour later you have a bad headache and that puts a different light on it.”
Apparently, Fister’s biggest headache will be that, after pitching six scoreless innings, he was lifted after a leadoff single by Hunter Pence, who eventually scored the game’s first run. That made Fister both a hard-luck and a hard-headed loser.
On the surface, this was a neat, compact Giants win on the heels of the Verlander dusting. It seems like it ought to be just the beginning of a long, fine World Series. Yet there is reason to believe — 13 reasons, actually — to suspect that it was much, much more.
For previous Thomas Boswell columns, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.