The bump on Doug Fister's head from a hard line drive was much less of a concern for the Detroit Tigers' pitcher than the 2-0 hole his team needs to climb out of in the World Series.
Fister shook off that scary moment early in the game to take a shutout bid into the seventh inning in what turned out to be a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night.
"It was a tough night," Fister said. "Obviously we had a couple of balls that didn't go our way. It's OK. We're going to come back."
With no postgame headaches or lingering symptoms from his second-inning scare, Fister was talking more about a perfect bunt that never rolled foul to lead to the Giants' first run than the line drive off his head.
Fister ended up with the hard-luck loss when he allowed a leadoff single in the seventh to Hunter Pence, who eventually scored when reliever Drew Smyly was unable to strand him.
It was remarkable that Fister was even in the game that long after it looked as if he could have been knocked out in the second inning. Gregor Blanco hit a line drive that struck Fister just above the right ear with a runner on first and two outs. The ball ricocheted into short center for a single.
"Coming off the mound the focus was where the ball go," Fister said. "I didn't see any stars. I didn't have any headaches so I figured I'd be OK."
"Whoa!" umpire Dan Iassogna said as he popped out from behind the plate, adding: "Doug, you OK?" when he got to the mound.
Fister looked unfazed by the blow and remained in the game after being checked out by a trainer, manager Jim Leyland and pitching coach Jeff Jones.
"I was scared to death when it happened," Leyland said. "I didn't really realize exactly how it hit him. It kind of grazed I want to say the side of his head, the back of his head. It was a scary moment, obviously, but he was fine."
Fister answered every question correctly on the mound and even added that he would get the third out.
"He didn't seem scared," first baseman Prince Fielder said. "He definitely showed some toughness."
Fister then walked Brandon Crawford to load the bases but escaped the jam by retiring fellow pitcher Madison Bumgarner on a soft looper to shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
The 6-foot-8 right-hander didn't allow another hit until Pablo Sandoval singled with two outs in the sixth, retiring 12 straight batters after the walk to Crawford.
"It was scary at the moment but then he seemed to shake it off," catcher Gerald Laird said. "This guy's tough. I was surprised. The way (Blanco) hit it and the way it hit his head, it was scary. For him to bounce back and pitch like he did, that says a lot about him."
Leyland sent Fister back out for the seventh with 108 pitches to face the right-handed hitting Pence before a run of three straight lefties came to the plate. Pence ended Fister's night with a single to left field on his 114th pitch.
That proved costly. Smyly walked Brandon Belt, and Blanco reached on a bunt single that Smyly, Laird and third baseman Miguel Cabrera tried to will foul. But the ball tantalizingly stayed on the dirt between the foul line and infield grass before rolling to a stop in fair territory, loading the bases with no outs for the Giants.
"We thought the ball was going to be foul," Cabrera said. "It took a weird hop. I don't know if it was the right play to us but we chose to let it go to see if it would go foul."
Leyland chose to play the middle of the infield back to avoid a big inning. But that decision allowed a run to score when Brandon Crawford bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.
"It's not debatable to me," Leyland said. "Some people might debate that, but I felt we had to take our best shot to come out of it with one run because if we don't score, it doesn't make any difference anyway."
Fister allowed one run and four hits with one walk with three strikeouts. He became the first Tigers pitcher to last at least five innings in five straight postseason starts. But he is winless in three postseason outings this year because the bullpen blew leads his first two times on the mound.
The Tigers now find themselves in a daunting 2-0 hole because the offense generated nothing against Bumgarner and the bullpen. Only one World Series team has overcome such a deficit since the New York Mets did it in 1986.
"They definitely got the breaks on their side but they also play good baseball," Fielder said. "Hopefully we go home and we get some breaks our way."