The comforts of such a lead are apparently enormous, primarily because the team in the Giants’ position knows that it will get to come back home for a Game 6 at the least. That seems to relax almost every team as it takes to the road, playing as if those hostile games are just house money. In the last 30 years, 13 teams have been in the Giants’ current position. Every one has won the World Series, including famous upsets or sweeps.
In fact, that’s the formula the Giants themselves used to beat favored Texas in just five games two years ago. It’s beginning to appear baseball’s decision to let home-field advantage in the World Series be decided by the All-Star Game now may carry more weight than the game intended.
The American League has, beyond debate, been the stronger circuit in head-to-head play in recent years, often by embarrassing margins. Yet the National League has won the last three all-star games and now is in excellent position to stun another AL favorite in the Series.
Patterns change. But for those who chase the World Series every fall there is a flow to these seven-game battles, and a 2-0 lead with the certainty of a conclusion on your own field seems to be an enormous incentive and cushion for the front-runner. Also, every mistake by the team in the Tigers’ position feels like the beginning of the end of their postseason world.
That San Francisco has already beaten the Tigers’ ace, Justin Verlander, only doubles down their confidence. The Giants’ red-hot Ryan Vogelsong is slated to start Game 3 while ace Matt Cain is set for Game 4. And now it appears that Bumgarner, a World Series hero in 2010, has fixed a mechanical glitch that’s made him miserable for the last seven weeks. On this cool, gorgeous Thursday night, he made Detroit suffer.
Teams like the 1978 Yankees and ’81 Dodgers are the last to contradict this trend. It’s been a long time. But the Tigers dominated and swept the 95-win Yankees, so if anybody has the thump to do the job, maybe it’s them.
This Game 2 was just the kind the pitching-first, situational-hitting game that the Giants love to play in their pitcher’s paradise. There’s lots of fine pitching and dicey strategy — when to send a runner home, when to play the infield back and such. But a very few points proved to be the keys.
First, Bumgarner had been awful for seven weeks, butchering his last seven starts of the regular season, then getting bombed by both the Reds and Cardinals in playoff losses that actually knocked him out of the Giants’ rotation in favor of Barry Zito for Game 5 of the NL Championship Series. Giants fans anticipated this game like a trip to a hungover dentist.