Madison Bumgarner continued a brilliant stretch of starting pitching for the San Francisco Giants during Game 2 of the World Series, twirling seven shutout innings in a 2-0 squeaker over the Detroit Tigers that brought the National League champions within two wins of their second title in three years.
Making his first start since Oct. 14 after being briefly dropped from the rotation due to two rough postseason outings, Bumgarner (1-0) struck out eight batters while yielding a mere two hits and two walks in a splendid 86-pitch effort.
Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo finished off the two-hit shutout with a scoreless inning each as San Francisco registered its fifth consecutive win of this postseason, including an 8-3 triumph over the Tigers in Wednesday's Game 1 behind a three-homer effort from Pablo Sandoval.
Hunter Pence and Gregor Blanco were the offensive stars of a pitching- dominated Game 2, with the former scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning and adding a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Blanco went 2- for-3 with a key bunt single that advanced Pence to third with the game still scoreless in the seventh.
Bumgarner outdueled Doug Fister (0-1), with the Detroit starter receiving a hard-luck defeat despite permitting just four hits and a walk over six-plus frames, but enabling the game's first run to reach base by issuing a leadoff single to Pence in the bottom of the seventh.
"He just wasn't quite as good as Bumgarner, but he was pretty darned good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Fister. "If you give us that performance as a starter all the time throughout a series, you feel pretty good about it."
The Giants have allowed only four runs during their current surge, with the starting staff of Bumgarner, Game 1 winner Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain combining for a minuscule 0.55 earned run average over that span.
Bumgarner won two postseason assignments as a rookie during San Francisco's 2010 title run, including a gem in Game 4 of that year's World Series in which he limited Texas to three hits over eight shutout innings. The young lefty had been anything but dominant over his two playoff starts of this October, however, and was replaced in favor of Tim Lincecum for Game 4 of the NLCS after being rocked for 10 runs and 15 hits over that pair of appearances.
"I really thought he needed a break and I thought he benefited from it, getting some rest, both mentally and physically," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner. "And he went out there and pitched like we know he can."
Bumgarner was clearly in top form in a game where the Giants' previously potent bats were being held in check by Fister.
He recorded five of his strikeouts over the first three innings, though the Tigers very nearly touched him for a run in a top of the second in which the AL champs ran themselves out of a scoring opportunity.
After Bumgarner hit Prince Fielder with a pitch to begin the inning, Delmon Young laced a double into the left-field corner and third base coach Gene Lamont waved Fielder home. However, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro delivered a perfect relay throw to catcher Buster Posey, who applied a swipe tag on Fielder just before the slugger crossed the plate.
"That was huge," said Bumgarner. "I think that might have been a momentum shifter for me because I had some trouble in the second, third, fourth innings the last couple starts, and (the) defense bailed me out there. It was a huge play, got me excited, and (I'm) happy we were able to get out of it unscathed."
San Francisco threatened in its half of the frame, but Fister would avoid any potential harm -- both to himself and his team.
The tall righty recorded a pair of outs after a leadoff single by Posey, but Blanco followed with a line drive that caught him just above his right ear and caromed just past second base for a base hit.
Fister was unfazed by the nearly disastrous blow, though he would subsequently walk Brandon Crawford to load the bases before getting Bumgarner to end the inning with a popup to short.
He would go on to retire 12 straight San Francisco batters after the walk to Crawford, matching zeroes with Bumgarner and keeping the contest scoreless before being removed by Leyland after giving up Pence's hit to start the bottom of the seventh.
Drew Smyly took over for Fister and promptly walked Brandon Belt before Blanco dropped down a perfectly-placed bunt that fell dead before reaching the foul line on the third base side, filling the sacks with still none out.
"He got into a good count and put one of the most beautiful bunts you'll ever see," said Pence. "He's just the definition of a ball player -- defense, speed, can bunt, can swing it, and he showed another reason why he's so valuable."
Leyland opted to keep the infield at double-play depth, and Crawford complied by bouncing into a 4-6-3 twin-killing that enabled Pence to trot home and break the scoreless stalemate.
"We felt like we couldn't give them two runs," said Leyland. "That's why we did that, and we got the double play. To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with one run, absolutely thrilled. I mean, we had to score anyway."
The decision would still prove costly, as Casilla didn't allow a ball out of the infield during a 1-2-3 eighth and Romo set down all three Detroit hitters in the ninth.
San Francisco did get an insurance run prior to Romo's entrance, thanks to three walks issued by the Detroit bullpen that loaded the bases with one out for Pence. The excitable outfielder then lifted a fly ball to right off Octavio Dotel that brought in Angel Pagan for a 2-0 advantage.
Following an off day, the series shifts to Detroit for Saturday's Game 3. The Tigers will turn to Anibal Sanchez in hopes of bouncing back, with Vogelsong slated to take the mound for the Giants.
The Tigers won't have history on their side, however. Of the 52 previous teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven World Series, 41 have gone on to claim the championship, and the last eight clubs faced with such a deficit have failed to win the series.
The 1996 New York Yankees were the last to win the World Series after dropping the first two games, coming back against Atlanta that season ... Bumgarner became the fifth pitcher in World Series history to have back-to-back starts with seven or more scoreless innings, and the first to do so since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax did so for the Dodgers in 1965 ... Fister had thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his most recent start, which took place against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS ... Sandoval finished 1-for-3 and had a Giants' postseason record of six straight games with an RBI come to an end ... Scutaro entered the game having tied a franchise mark with an 11-game postseason hitting streak, but went 0-for-4.