Philadelphia, PA – Doesn't it seem like we have been here before?
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.
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, 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..
The big stage is certainly nothing new to Bumgarner. Remember as a 21-year- old two years ago Bumgarner got his first taste of World Series action by tossing eight scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers.
He was 2-0 that postseason with a 2.18 ERA.
Now, Bumgarner has the Giants up 2-0, a position that has produced a title in 41 of the previous 52 occurrences. Fourteen of the last 15 times a team has jumped out to a 2-0 lead they have gone on to win the World Series, including the last eight.
The Giants, of course, won the first two games against Texas in 2010 and won that series in five games. They have won the series each of the four times they have 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 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.
Fister, who stayed in the game despite taking a line drive off the back of his head in the second inning, exited after allowing single to Hunter Pence to lead off the seventh inning. After Brandon Belt walked, Gregor Blanco dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line that stopped dead in the dirt as the Tigers waited for it to roll foul.
Brandon Crawford then grounded into a double play, but the damage was done as Pence scored on the play.
Between all the comebacks, the fortuitous roll on the Blanco bunt and Angel Pagan's double off the bag in Wednesday's Game 1, you have to think that maybe there is something to this team of destiny thing.
The real story on Thursday, though, was Bumgarner, who some felt may not even get a start in this series after his poor showings in both the NLDS and NLCS. He hadn't pitched since Oct. 14, but showed no signs of rust.
Bumgarner's only real trouble came in the second inning when Delmon Young doubled with Prince Fielder on first. Fielder, though, tried to score on the play, but was nailed at the plate on a terrific relay from Delmon Young to Marco Scutaro.
Had third base coach Gene Lamont not sent him, the Tigers would have had second and third and nobody out. Instead, Fielder was thrown out, Jhonny Peralta popped up and Avisail Garcia struck out to end the inning.
Now the Giants head to the Motor City up 2-0 with their two best pitchers - Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain - going in Games 3 and 4, respectively.
All we heard entering this series was just how good the Detroit rotation was. Perhaps we forgot that the staff across the diamond won a World Series two years ago.
HEADING TO MOTOWN FOR GAME 3
After a day off on Friday this series will shift to the Motor City for Game 3 on Saturday at Comerica Park.
Detroit 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," Detroit manager Jim 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.
San Francisco will counter with Ryan Vogelsong, who has been the team's 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 NLCS Game 6 start against the St. Louis Cardinals, as he surrendered a run and four hits and struck out nine in seven innings.
"When I think about Vogey, I think of perseverance," Giants manager Bruce 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, three runs or fewer in 24 of his 31 starts. . Like Sanchez, he ended his year strong and 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."