Giants go small to gain big Fall Classic edge
Bunt, sacrifice fly among key plays in pushing across two runs in Game 2
SAN FRANCISCO -- As the ball rolled slowly up the third-base line, dribbling between the cut of the grass and the chalk of the foul line, the momentum in Game 2 of the World Series rolled with it.Ever so slowly, the ball rolled to a stop, landing right where the Giants wanted it -- and that's where the World Series is now, right where the Giants want it.
Gregor Blanco's bunt in the seventh inning Thursday night couldn't have been set down any more perfectly, and it set up the Giants for the smallest of small-ball innings -- one run, pushed across on a double play because a 45-foot bunt stayed fair.That run was all the Giants needed to take a commanding 2-0 World Series lead with them on the road to Detroit, though they added another run the next inning for a 2-0 victory claimed with cleverly crafted runs in the late innings. When Blanco reached safely after the biggest bunt of his life, he and his first-base coach couldn't help but share a laugh at their good fortune.
|2011||Rangers||Giants in 5|
|1954||Cardinals||Giants in 4|
|1933||Senators||Giants in 5|
|1922||Yankees||Giants in 4|
"I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, and said, 'We practiced that today,'" Blanco said. "I was joking. But that was a perfect bunt. I wasn't even trying to do that. It was just meant to be."The Giants added a second run, manufactured with aplomb in the eighth, giving Sergio Romo more cushion than he needed as he closed out the victory with a 1-2-3 ninth. Hunter Pence, who began the seventh-inning rally with a sharp single and scored to break a scoreless tie, knocked home the second run with a sacrifice fly, which Giants manager Bruce Bochy pointed out was as big as the first, in a sense. "That at-bat to add on to the score was really, I thought, huge for us," Bochy said of Pence's six-pitch effort against Octavio Dotel that included three foul balls before the fair one deep to right-center. "It's a little different when you have a one- or two-run lead. [Pence] battled and barely got a piece of one pitch there, and he finally found a way to get the run in." A 2-0 lead, indeed, is better than 1-0. But you can't get there without getting to 1-0, and the way the Giants went about that in the seventh was a combination of flawless execution and a little bit of luck. Pence started it all off with a leadoff single to left field, his first base hit of the World Series after going 0-for-4 in the opener and getting some good wood but nothing to show for it in his first at-bats Thursday night. Obviously, Pence got on base fully intending to make it around to home plate. But it was Brandon Belt's full-count walk against Drew Smyly, the left-hander the Tigers brought in to face him, that Pence said really got the ball rolling. "That was huge," Pence said. "To get on with nobody out and then draw a walk, you're in a great situation, a great spot where Blanco can bump me over." Or, in this case, bunt the bases loaded. After fouling off a 2-0 bunt and taking a ball to make it 3-1, Blanco caught the ball with his bat, depositing it in the alley just a few inches wide between the grass and the third-base line, where it died to the delight of the packed home crowd. "What a bunt he laid down," Bochy said. "He couldn't put down a better bunt than what he did." Said Pence: "He got into a good count and put down one of the most beautiful bunts you'll ever see. Blanco, you can't say enough about him. He's just the definition of a ballplayer, defense, speed, can bunt, can swing it, and he showed another reason why he's so valuable." As the ball trickled down, Smyly, catcher Gerald Laird and third baseman Miguel Cabrera surrounded it. Once it came to rest, home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna stuck his head in the scrum and pointed toward fair territory. Meanwhile, Blanco couldn't help but take a peek. "As soon as I bunted it, I was like, 'Oh, my God, it's going foul.' I watched it a little bit [while running] and said, 'I think it's going fair,'" he said. With the infield playing double-play depth, rather than playing in and hoping to cut down a run-scoring chance, the Tigers got a double-play grounder from Brandon Crawford, but Pence scored the game's first run easily. "To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run [allowed], absolutely thrilled," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I mean, we had to score anyway." After Santiago Casilla held the Tigers hitless in the top of the eighth, the bottom half featured more of the same small-ball mentality for the Giants -- a run scored on three walks, a steal and a sacrifice fly by Pence, making it 2-0. Once Romo closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth, the Giants had manufactured themselves not only a couple of runs but a proverbial happy flight to Detroit and a 2-0 series edge that has led to a championship 41 of the 52 times a team has taken it. One night, they did it with three historic swats by Pablo Sandoval. The next, they did it with five singles, scoring their runs on a double play and a sacrifice fly. The Giants are finding a way, with their intensely positive right fielder in the middle of it all in Game 2, and now they have to find a way to keep it up. "Everyone seems focused, everyone seems locked in, and there's going to be more adversity to come," Pence said. "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."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.