SAN FRANCISCO -- Baseball is one strange game. The Giants are an even stranger team. This could be why they are halfway to winning another World Series.
Consider the weirdness of Thursday's Game 2, a Giants' 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers at AT&T Park.
The goal in baseball, as every Little Leaguer knows, is to smack the ball hard with a bat and produce hits.
Thursday, both of the Giants' runs scored when the batters made outs. First, there was a double-play grounder with the bases loaded. One run. Next, there was a long outfield fly ball with a man on third base, who tagged up and scored. Two runs.
With many innings of good pitching, that was all the Giants needed. Not crucial hits. Crucial outs. Thanks to those magnificent outs, they are headed to Detroit for the next three games with a two-games-to-none lead in the series and the Tigers trying to figure out what the heck just happened.
"That's why baseball is baseball," said Gregor Blanco, the Giants' left fielder. "You can hit a ball 10 times on a line drive to the outfield and be 0-for-10. And then ..."
And then you can be the Giants, who through their postseason journey have found all sorts of ways to win -- but none quite like the way they won Thursday, where inches mattered more than yards.
It was just the opposite of one night earlier, when in a Game 1 victory, the Giants' game-deciding hits were Pablo Sandoval's three home runs, all of
Thursday, in Game 2, the Giants' most critical hit might have traveled 40 feet. It was a bunt by Blanco, who came to the plate in the seventh inning with runners on first and second base. The game was still scoreless. The situation clearly called for a sacrifice bunt.
Blanco tried to execute one. And failed. Instead, he laid down a bunt along the third base line that became a hit -- quite a feat for a man who isn't sure if he is even the Giants' best bunter.
"I don't know," he said when asked about that. "Seems like today, I was."
The play happened in slow motion. Blanco's bat bumped the ball and it started trickling up the left field line. Comedy ensued.
Gerald Laird, the Tigers' catcher, chased the ball as it rolled along the infield grass bordering the dirt that contained the foul line. Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' third baseman, came down the line from his position after the ball. Drew Smyly, the Detroit pitcher, also trotted over. All three Tigers waited for the ball to roll foul.
They stared at the ball. And waited. And stared. And waited. And stared. And waited.
And finally the ball stopped. In fair territory, just on the grass. Base hit. Blanco had been at first base long enough to turn around and watch.
"I wanted to push the ball more toward the pitcher," Blanco said. "But I saw it might be going to stay fair so I said, 'I'll just start running.' ''
The next Giants' batter was Brandon Crawford, who hit into the extremely crucial double play that resulted in a run when the Tigers played their infield back, figuring that falling behind, 1-0, would not be the worst thing that could happen.
It wasn't. An inning later, they were behind 2-0, after Hunter Pence's sacrifice fly.
"We're just trying to play fun baseball," shrugged Blanco. "Anything can happen."
No wonder the Detroit Tigers look so baffled, battered and bumfoozled. They came to San
Example: Detroit's last 14 batters of the game failed to hit a ball out of the infield. The Giants' pitching has been very good. But some of it has been the Tigers' overanxiousness. Their manager, Jim Leyland, was not about to call his team's two losses in San Francisco anything but a Giants team executing well.
"I don't think they're getting the breaks," Leyland said. "I think they've earned everything they've got. ... Up to this point, they've outplayed us. They did a little bit better than us today. They did quite a bit better than us yesterday. ... I mean, they're playing good. They're playing like the Giants play."
And he is correct. Nutty plays aside, the Giants are exhibiting great defense. The closest the Tigers came to scoring Thursday was in the second inning when beefy first baseman Prince Fielder was sent to home plate on a double off the outfield wall by Delmon Young.
Blanco played the ball for the Giants and relayed it to second baseman Marco Scutaro. He turned and fired it to catcher Buster Posey, who tagged out a sliding Fielder by about four inches when he failed to get his leading leg on the plate and couldn't get his trailing leg there in time.
But the most interesting part about the play? Blanco was stunned to find Scutaro there to take the relay throw. Usually when a left fielder fires in the ball to an infielder, it's the third baseman or shortstop.
"I don't even know what Scutaro was doing there," Blanco said. "But I'm glad he was there."
All right, so even the Giants' great plays are a little nutty, too. It's a best-of-seven series, not best-of-two. And after falling behind themselves in their other two playoff series this autumn, the Giants know how teams can rally to win.
But after Thursday, you really do wonder if the Tigers can find their inner weirdness and do that. Because the Giants seem to have the weirdness market wonderfully cornered.