Tigers can't seem to catch any breaks against the Giants
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
The non-believers are home now, the Reds and Cardinals, watching on TV from parts unknown, shaking their heads and saying to no one in particular: They're doing it again.
This time the Tigers are on the receiving end, and the stuff happening to them in this World Series -- some of it freaky, some not -- is threatening to make this a very brief Fall Classic after the Giants' 2-0 victory Thursday night in Game 2.
In 2006, the Tigers were beaten in five games by an 83-win Cardinals team that relied on a parade of well-placed bunts to win a championship. Detroiters are still shaking their heads over that one. To lose a World Series because of a chain of events that looked like a spring training pitchers' fielding drill was astonishing to watch.
The Giants needed to do it only once Thursday night. With runners at first and second and none out in the seventh inning, Gregor Blanco bunted a creeping roller down the third-base line. The ball rolled so slowly that umpire Dan Iassogna kept pace as he charged from behind the plate, and he stood over it, beside Gerald Laird and Miguel Cabrera, as the ball stopped dead about three inches inside the chalk. Iassogna emphatically pointed fair as Laird looked away, flustered.
"When I was looking at it, it was right on the line," Laird said. "I thought it was going foul. But it hit something soft and stayed right there. It was a perfect bunt. The breaks just aren't going our way."
In Laird's estimation, a few inches in the other direction, the count to Blanco goes to 2-and-2 and maybe Doug Fister gets the strikeout he needed in that spot. Instead, with the bases loaded and none out in a scoreless tie, Jim Leyland chose to play the infield back.
"We felt like we couldn't give them two runs -- that's why we did that," Leyland said. "To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run. You give them two, it makes it a little bit tougher. We didn't want them to open it up. It actually worked out really good for us."
Talk about a glass-half-full mind-set. That's an extremely optimistic way to look at the deciding run, especially when the Tigers failed to score at all. But Leyland probably feels a bit disoriented, having dropped the first two games of this series after coming off an ALCS sweep of the 95-win Yankees.
But Blanco's bunt was not the only bizarre moment in this loss. There was the not-so-small matter of Fister taking a line drive off the side of his skull, again courtesy of Blanco, with two outs in the second inning. It was frightening to witness as the ball caromed into the outfield and the Tigers' trainers rushed to the mound. The training staff asked him a number of questions and he passed the tests. "I was scared," Laird said. "That could have really done some damage. It was hit really hard."
Fortunately, Fister was more than OK. He retired 13 of the next 16 batters and left after giving up Pence's leadoff single in the seventh.
After the game, Fister actually joked about the incident, but a matter of inches might have spared him a concussion or even saved his life.
"Just like my dad told me my whole life," Fister said, smiling. "If I got hit in the head, I'm OK. I just got to be better with my glove. My initial reaction was, where did the ball go?"
The Tigers must be wondering how this series got away from them so quickly. First, the nearly unbeatable Justin Verlander gets shelled in Game 1, a night that includes Pablo Sandoval's historic three-homer spectacle. As an encore, the Giants use a 40-foot roller to rekindle their October momentum and ride it to a 2-0 series lead.
The Tigers' job now, as everyone heads to Comerica Park for the middle three games, is to find a way to stop this black-and-orange blur before it rolls right past them to a second title in three years. The Reds and Cardinals couldn't.