SAN FRANCISCO — Long ball one night, a Giant dose of small ball the next.
Two wins in two games and suddenly San Francisco doesn’t need to dig itself out of a postseason hole for a change.
Madison Bumgarner shut down the Detroit Tigers for seven innings, then the Giants took advantage of a bunt that stayed fair to eke out the go-ahead run in a 2-0 win Thursday night for a 2-0 edge in the World Series.
Gregor Blanco’s single trickled to a stop inches fair on the infield dirt, setting up Brandon Crawford’s run-scoring double-play grounder in the seventh. Hunter Pence added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, and that was plenty for these masters of the October comeback.
“It definitely feels a whole lot better than having our backs against the wall,” Bumgarner said. “But you can’t relax. We’ve got to keep pushing.”
Game 3 will be Saturday night in Detroit and for once, the Giants aren’t playing from behind. They overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Cincinnati in the best-of-five division series and escaped a 3-1 hole against St. Louis in the NLCS.
A day after Pablo Sandoval homered three times, the favored Tigers wondered what other way they could lose. Prince Fielder was thrown out at the plate by a hair and moments later pitcher Doug Fister was struck squarely in the head by Blanco’s line drive, a ball hit so hard that it caromed into shallow center field.
“They asked me the typical concussion questions,” Fister said. “I’m not concerned. I have a minor bump. According to my dad, my whole life his saying has always been if I got hit in the head I’d be OK. That’s how I take it.”
The 6-foot-8 Fister managed to stay on the mound, and even excelled. Bumgarner more than matched him, however, allowing just two hits before the San Francisco bullpen closed it out before another pulsating crowd.
Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect eighth and Sergio Romo worked the ninth for a save in the combined two-hitter, leaving Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and his team in a huge hole heading back to Comerica Park. Anibal Sanchez will start for the Tigers against Ryan Vogelsong in Detroit.
“That’s the way baseball is. When things are going well, things are bouncing your way,” said Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro. “If things aren’t going well, you just keep battling and playing hard. No one is taking anything for granted.”
Even so, several dozen members of the Giants family came onto the field at AT&T Park well after the final out to pose for pictures, wanting to savor what they hope is the Giants’ last home game of the year.
Blanco, meanwhile, was able to celebrate a single that rolled 45 feet, if that.
“I was joking with (coach) Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, ‘We practiced that today,’ ” Blanco said. “That was a perfect bunt. I wasn’t really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be and I’m thankful that I did it.”
The Tigers looked rusty at the plate, maybe still lost following a five-day layoff after an ALCS sweep of the Yankees. Cabrera hopped up in frustration after Sandoval snared his line drive to third.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “We got two hits (Thursday). I’m certainly not going to sit up here and rip my offense because (Wednesday) I thought we had some pretty good swings. Cabrera hit a bullet (Thursday).”
Bumgarner had something to do with the Tigers’ troubles, too.
Bumped from the NLCS rotation after two poor postseason starts, he returned with a flourish. The left-hander struck out eight and looked as sharp as he did in the 2010 World Series when, as a 21-year-old rookie, he stopped Texas in Game 4 on the way to a championship.
“Just able to make pitches,” Bumgarner said. “I hadn’t done a very good job of making pitches this postseason so far and this is a team that you’re not going to be able to afford to miss with.
“They hit some balls hard, but luckily we were in the right spot.”
Along with his bunt, Blanco might have hit the hardest ball of the game — the liner that nailed Fister in the second inning. The ball struck the right side of his head and deflected on the fly to shallow center field.
Fister showed no visible effect from the blow — in fact, some in the crowd wondered whether the ball perhaps glanced off his glove because Fister stayed on his feet. Only when fans saw replays did groans echo around the ballpark.