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SAN FRANCISCO The Giants are handing the baseball toMadison Bumgarner for Game 2 of the World Series, and if that vote ofconfidence doesnt resonate with the pollsters, also consider this:
Giants manager Bruce Bochy didnt hesitate to use TimLincecum for 2 13 relief innings even with the Giants holding a 6-1 lead. Sothere wont be a Timmy Tourniquet at Bochys disposal if Bumgarners outing isanything like his previous two postseason starts.
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Bumgarner has an 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts, both atAT&T Park, and he hasnt survived the fifth inning in either of them. Butgetting yanked from the NLCS rotation allowed him to work on his mechanics inside sessions, and the 23-year-old left-hander said he corrected a flaw inwhich he was over-rotating.
And that was causing a lot of other problems, Bumgarnersaid. Ive always been a guy who closes off some, but it was too much.Throwing that way causes a lot more stress and causes me to tire out a littlefaster.
About his session last Saturday, Bumgarner said, I thinkweve got things straightened out. I do feel better. The stuff feels better.The breaking ball feels sharper. But the only way to be sure is to get intogame speed.
Bochy is confident, especially given Bumgarners experiencetwo years ago when he dominated the Texas Rangers in a Game 4 victory onHalloween night.
The good ones bounce back, Bochy said. Theyre resilient.We certainly feel that way with Madison.
It helps that the Tigers are not strong against left-handedpitching. (They were just 26-25 against southpaw starters in the regularseason.) In fact, it could end up working unintended to the Giants advantage thatthey were unable to set up their rotation after being stretched to the limit bythe St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. The Tigers would see Game 1 winner BarryZito again in Game 5 at Detroit, and if Bumgarner looks to be on track, hed belined up for a potential Game 6 back at China Basin.
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Bumgarner, with his slow, three-quarters delivery, is not aneasy first-time assignment for a hitter. So it might be good to note thatPrince Fielder (3 for 7) and Omar Infante (2 for 6) are the only Tigers withmore than three career at-bats against him. No current Tigers batter owns anextra-base hit off Bumgarner.
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The Giants have even less experience with right-hander DougFister. The only player on the current roster whos faced him is Marco Scutaro,and hes an .091 hitter (1 for 11) with two walks and a strikeout.
But unfamiliarity could be an ally, too. Fister grew up aGiants fan in Merced and hes pitching in AT&T Park for the first time anexperience almost as dreamlike as being in a World Series game, and perhaps onemore thing that might take him out of his game.
Dont tell anybody, said Fister, after extolling thegreatness of Will Clark. When I was little, it was a dream and a goal for me,and now its happening. It holds a special place in my heart, but it doesntchange what we do on the field.
Fister drives down the mound with his 6 foot-8 frame andthrows a power sinker that he uses to get ground balls. But he also set anAmerican league record in his second to last start of the regular season, whenhe struck out nine consecutive Kansas City Royals batters.
Hes given up just two runs over 13 13 postseason inningsagainst the As and Yankees.
But Fister is a contact pitcher, and you dont need to be anadvanced scout to note that the Tigers infield defense is how shall we say?Pleasantly plump.
Itll be up to leadoff man Angel Pagan to help histeammates see pitches. Thats exactly what he did in Game 1, when he was thrown25 pitches in four plate appearances, fouling off 13 of them.
The pick to click in Game 2 might be Buster Posey, who washitting .178 in the postseason before collecting two hits in the World Seriesopener his first multi-hit game since the opener of the NLDS againstCincinnati. Poseys first hit was a line shot that nearly reached the wall inleft field off Justin Verlander, which came immediately after Pablo Sandovalssecond homer of the night. Posey added a very Buster-like RBI single to rightfield in the seventh off deposed closer Jose Valverde.
Yeah, that was a better path, Posey told me. Ive been inand out of the zone a little bit too fast there. So that was nice. Hopefullythat was a good sign.
One more good sign for the Giants would be taking an earlylead. Theyre now 7-0 in the postseason when leading after five innings. Theyonly have one playoff victory when they had to rally late, and that came in theextra-inning, 2-1 victory over the Reds in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Of course, the Tigers bullpen looks to be in shambles. TheGiants bullpen hasnt shown any sign of weakness.
Its amazing. All the world looks a little brighter afteryouve beaten Verlander in Game 1. But as Tigers manager Jim Leyland reminded, "momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher."
The Giants are hoping Bumgarner can keep it on their side.