Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, shortstop Jhonny Peralta, second baseman Omar Infante and first baseman Prince Fielder (L to R) stand together during a pitching change against the San Francisco Giants in the seventh inning during Game 2 of the MLB World Series baseball championship in San Francisco, October 25, 2012. (REUTERS)
SAN FRANCISCO - The way the San Francisco Giants have been pulling rabbits out of the hat this fall leaves the impression that comebacks are routine.
Down 2-0 to the Cincinnati Reds in the National League division series, the Giants won three in a row in Cincinnati to advance. After falling behind 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League championship, all they did was win three in a row.
"I feel like we've gained a lot of strength from what we had to overcome to get to this point," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said after scoring the go-ahead run in San Francisco's 2-0 win Thursday over the Detroit Tigers.
"You know, we're riding a little bit of a wave of confidence and momentum and understanding. I feel like everyone is on the same page, and we're just going out there and really playing as hard as we can for each other."
Now they have turned the tables in the World Series. They're up 2-0 and the Tigers are the ones gasping for breath, reduced to faint hope as they take the Series back to chilly Detroit for Games 3, 4 and, maybe, 5.
"It's lined up to be storybook," said Tiger ace Justin Verlander, desperate to get back on the mound for Game 5 after getting shelled in Game 1.
"We've just got to make it happen. These (Giants) have been storybook so far. It would be nice to reverse the roles. They're up 2-0. They don't know what to do with that."
The statistical debris of more than a hundred years of World Series play would tend to dispute that.
This is the 53rd time a team has taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series. Of the previous 52 times, 41 (78.8%) have gone on to win the Fall Classic. The past eight times a team has jumped out to a 2-0 lead, it has won the Series. In fact, only once in the past 15 instances has the team that is trailing 2-0 gone on to win the series.
That exception to the rule occurred in 1996 when the Atlanta Braves went into the Bronx and stole the first two games. The New York Yankees went to Atlanta and won three in a row, then finished the Braves off at Yankee Stadium in Game 6.
Looking specifically at the Giants, this is the fifth time (1922, 1933, 1954, 2010) the franchise has taken a 2-0 World Series lead and so far, they've gone 4-0 in those instances.
Detroit has fallen behind 2-0 on two previous occasions (1907, 1908) and lost both of them.
And they will do so again unless their comatose offence snaps to attention. Thursday, they were limited to two hits by Madison Bumgarner who had compiled an ugly 6.85 earned-run average over his most recent nine starts.
Now, as the Series moves to Detroit, the Tigers will be facing San Francisco's two best pitchers in Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. Detroit counters with Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer. If the Tigers can extend it, Game 5 will reprise the Barry Zito-Verlander intriguing battle of opposites of Game 1.
Of particular concern for Detroit is the inability of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the most potent 3-4 combination in baseball, to generate any kind of sustained offence. Combined they accounted for 74 home runs and 252 RBI during the season. So far in the World Series they are 2-for-11, both hits singles.
Meanwhile, the Giants are enchanted. If they're not hitting a whimsical double off of the third-base bag, they're lining a single off a pitcher's head, or dribbling a bunt down the third-base line, where it rolls to a stop, fair by three inches. It seems every break has gone their way. I mean, how often do you win a game 2-0, driving in one run with a sacrifice fly and the other with a double-play ball?
"Well, No. 1, I don't think (the Giants) are getting any breaks," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they've earned everything they've got. You got a freak play that hit the bag (Wednesday), but that's the game. I don't think they're getting any breaks.
"Up to this point they've outplayed us. They did a little bit better than us (Thursday). They did quite a bit better than us (Wednesday). But I always tip my hat. I don't consider we're not getting breaks. I mean, (Giants third baseman Pablo) Sandoval made a great catch, the left fielder made a great catch, two of them. I mean, they're playing good. They're playing like the Giants play, and we expected that coming in. They're good. They're really good."
So are the Tigers but they have yet to prove it in this series. After Verlander's uncharacteristic mediocre performance in Game 1, Doug Fister continued his outstanding post-season play, pitching in Game 2.
But without an offensive breakout, the Tigers don't stand a chance no matter how well they pitch.
VOGELSON FINALLY GETS IN TUNE
Ryan Vogelsong is about to put the world back in World Series.
The San Francisco Giants' Game 3 starter -- who has spent most of his life seeing the world from a seat on a team bus, both in North America and Japan -- is into his 14th professional season and about to make his World Series debut.
Vogelsong was drafted by the Giants in 1998 and then traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates three years later. His career was derailed by Tommy John surgery and then almost evaporated because of poor performance.
He turned to Japan and struggled there as well. After more struggles in the minors with a couple of other teams, he returned to the Giants last year for one more shot at the triple-A level.
When Giants starter Barry Zito was placed on the disabled list in mid-April 2011, Vogelsong, at 33, got that one last call and he turned it into a lifeline for his baseball career. He made the all-star team that season and finished 11th in the Cy Young Award voting.
Now he's in line to pitch Game 3 in Detroit against the Tigers and a potential Game 7 back in San Francisco.
"A lot of faith. A lot of hard work," Vogelsong said. "You also have to have some things go your way to get opportunities."
"He's throwing the ball as well as anybody on the staff," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who is comfortable with Vogelsong as his seventh-game starter after seeing him beat St. Louis twice in the NL championship, compiling a 1.29 earned-run average in the process.