- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- After a wonderfully tense game filled with so many opportunities to second-guess moves, it's just a darn shame there are no more presidential debates -- Mr. President, Governor, would either of you have waved home a 275-pound slugger with nobody out? I would love to see this World Series go the distance. Instead I fear it will be over before fans even have a chance to claim their free tacos.
There are still games to be played, but after the Giants' 2-0 victory in Game 2, I don't expect any more will be played in San Francisco. Past results are no guarantee of future performance, but 52 previous teams have taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series and 41 have gone on to win the series, including 14 of the previous 15 teams.
Yes, one week ago the Giants appeared dead, trailing the Cardinals 3-1 in the National League Championship Series, just as they appeared dead the previous week when they trailed Cincinnati 2-0 in the division series. Which, I suppose, is evidence that teams can and do come back from imposing deficits. Or as Justin Verlander said of the Giants' finally leading in a postseason series this month, "They don't know what to do with this."
He meant that jokingly, because the Giants definitely do know how to handle this. And they will. They have a 2-0 lead with NLCS hero Ryan Vogelsong starting Game 3, ace Matt Cain starting Game 4 and new bullpen weapon Tim Lincecum available for relief. In addition to its superb pitching, San Francisco is scoring with screaming home runs, balls bouncing off bases, and short, slow bunts that not even Lenny Randle could blow foul. They also are fielding so wonderfully, Tom Emanski should use the Giants in his baseball fundamentals videos.
I still don't know why second baseman Marco Scutaro was in position to take a relay throw from left fielder Gregor Blanco in the second inning -- neither did Blanco -- but the entire series might hinge on that play in which Prince Fielder was thrown out at home.
Already having had his leg horribly broken once in a collision at home plate, I suspect Buster Posey will wake up screaming in a cold sweat several nights this winter with the image of Prince barreling down on him like a grand piano falling from a fifth-story window. I also suspect the image of Posey's last-moment sweep tag on Prince will haunt Detroit fans this winter as well.
What sort of moron waves Prince Fielder around third base with nobody out?!?!?!
Gene Lamont is the third-base coach responsible for trying to score Prince from first base when Delmon Young's double was bouncing around in the left-field corner. Had he held up Prince, the Tigers would have had runners at second and third with nobody out. Instead, the Giants threw him out by inches thanks to a great tag after a strange 7-4-2 relay.
"I think Gene just got a little overaggressive," manager Jim Leyland said.
Lamont said that if he had to do it over again, he might very well have made the same call. And I might have as well. It took a great play to throw Prince out, and it's not as if the Tigers were guaranteed to score had Lamont held him at third base. As it was, Detroit had Young at second base with just one out, but Young rotted there when Jhonny Peralta popped up and Avisail Garcia struck out.
That wasn't the only controversial decision. Leyland played his infield in while trailing 1-0 with the bases loaded in the eighth (probably the right move to prevent a big inning) and also had starter Doug Fister begin the seventh inning even though Fister had thrown more than 100 pitches and his replacement, Drew Smyly, isn't used to pitching in relief (not the right move).
Of course, when a team isn't scoring, coaching decisions are invariably open for debate -- Mr. President, Governor, what would you to do to get Detroit's offense going?
Detroit has a lineup built around Miguel Cabrera and Prince, and the Giants staff has found a way to shut those two down. Once they finish their at-bats, the sound of crickets chirping take over for two more innings until they come to the plate again. The bottom four in Detroit's lineup had one hit in 27 at-bats the first two games.
Part of the problem is the bottom half of the order simply isn't that good. Another part of the problem is the Tigers are out of their rhythm after a week-long layoff following their four-game sweep of the Yankees.
To their credit, the Tigers are not using the layoff as an excuse in any way, shape or form. Catcher Alex Avila politely but firmly told me he was tired of talking about that issue and that "you don't lose a game because you had a week off."
But the layoff is affecting the Tigers. Perhaps not as dramatically as it did in 2006 but just enough to make a difference. Baseball is a daily game, a sport of routine. And taking a week off knocks players out of sync.
"I was on Colorado [in 2007] when we swept the NLCS and had eight days off, and then Boston came in and swept us in four games because we had a layoff," Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "For me, it is not always a positive thing. You want to win and get to the World Series, and you can only deal with what happens, but from my experience, it was not a good thing. Everything just calms down. To come back and compete, it can be a little different. It can be a drag."
The Tigers and Giants have Friday off before the series resumes in Detroit. Perhaps the day off will cool off the Giants. Perhaps the forecast of cold weather will do that. Perhaps the return home will get the Tigers going. Verlander certainly is looking at it that way. "I'm preparing for Game 5," he said. "I'm not in shutdown mode at all."
Verlander might get the chance to pitch again this series, but I don't think it will make a difference. The Giants have too big a series lead when they are pitching, hitting and fielding so well. They will win this series either in Detroit or San Francisco, and Tigers fans will ponder what could have been had Prince stopped at third base. Or had the Tigers needed six games to beat the Yankees.
Oh, and by the way, Detroit fans: If you want any of my stock tips, please include your requests when commenting about what a moron I am.