The San Francisco Giants rode their starting staff to a World Series title in 2010 and appear to be following the same script this time around.
On Saturday, the Giants try to go up three games to none on the Detroit Tigers, as the Fall Classic shifts to Comerica Park for Game 3.
After Barry Zito tossed 5 2/3 solid innings to best Detroit ace Justin Verlander in Wednesday's Game 1 triumph, Madison Bumgarner did him one better on Thursday in Game 2, tossing seven scoreless innings in the Giants' 2-0 victory.
Bumgarner had surrendered 10 runs over eight innings in his first two postseason starts, but was on the mark in Game 2, scattering two hits and striking out eight before giving way to the excellent San Francisco bullpen, as Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo closed out the two-hit shutout.
"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."
Now, the Giants are up 2-0, a position that has produced a title in 41 of the previous 52 occurrences. Fourteen of the last 15 teams to jump out to a 2-0 lead have gone on to win the World Series, including the last eight.
San Francisco, of course, won the first two games against Texas in 2010 and won that series in five games. It has won the series each of the four times it has taken a 2-0 lead. It's an odd position for a San Francisco team that had to rally back from an 0-2 hole in the NLDS and battle its way back from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.
The never-say-die Giants, though, have now won a franchise-record five straight postseason games.
It wasn't as easy for the Giants on Thursday as it was in Game 1 against Verlander. Tigers starter Doug Fister matched Bumgarner for the most part, allowing a run and four hits in six-plus innings, but suffered the hard-luck loss.
"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 Tigers have lost five straight World Series games, but now return home, where they have won five consecutive postseason games dating back to Game 5 of last year's ALCS vs. Texas.
"The way I look at it, we're two games back with five to play," said Leyland, "but we're playing the team we need to catch, and I think that's the best way to approach it."
But now Detroit must face righty Ryan Vogelsong, who has been the Giants' best starter this postseason. Vogelsong has won his last two starts and has given up just three runs in 19 innings in these playoffs. He was dominant in his Game 6 start against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, as he surrendered a run and four hits and struck out nine in seven innings.
"When I think about Vogey, I think of perseverance," Bochy said of his Game 3 starter, who returned to the Majors in 2011 after some time in Japan. "He's always had great stuff, but he's had to deal with a lot."
Vogelsong, who was 14-9 in the regular season with a 3.37 ERA, giving up three runs or fewer in 24 of his 31 starts. He has allowed one run or less the last five times he has taken the hill.
"These guys believe in me," Vogelsong said. "Every person in that clubhouse, to the coaching staff, to the front office, they believe in me, and that rubs off. It doesn't make the game any easier, but it's easier to go out there when you know everyone's behind you and thinks that you're going to get the job done. Nobody wants to be the guy that doesn't get it done."
Over the course of their winning streak, Giants starters have allowed only two runs and have pitched to a minuscule 0.55 ERA.
Detroit, meanwhile, will try to get back in the series behind righty Anibal Sanchez, who has been solid this postseason, going 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA. After giving up a pair of runs in an ALDS loss to the Oakland A's, Sanchez was terrific against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, limiting them to just three hits over seven scoreless innings.
Sanchez, of course, was acquired along with infielder Omar Infante from Miami in a midseason deal and went 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts for the Tigers. He ended the year strong, though, and has surrendered two runs or less in eight of his last 10 starts.
"Once he got in his comfort zone, he's done absolutely very, very well," Leyland said. "He's a very, very good pitcher and has pitched -- knock on wood -- in the past pretty good against the Giants. He was a great addition for our ballclub."
Sanchez has faced the Giants five times and is 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA against them. His lone loss came earlier this season when he was tagged for five runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Game 4 of this series will be played on Sunday.