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WS2012 Gm 2: Fister is ready for his Game 2 start

SAN FRANCISCO -- Now that the World Series has gotten off to a predictable start, with Justin Verlander getting knocked around, Barry Zito dealing and Pablo Sandoval etching his name into October lore ...

Wait, what?

Turns out, Verlander is fallible, Zito's National League Championship Series performance was not a fluke, the Giants don't need to be facing elimination to be at their best and there might have been something to that notion of the Tigers looking rusty after that long layoff.

That's what we learned in the Giants' 8-3 victory in Game 1. We also learned that the "Kung Fu Panda" is somehow in the same Fall Classic class as Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols. But frankly, it's going to take a while for us to fully wrap our heads around that one.

For now, we'll turn our focus to Game 2, knowing full well we have absolutely no idea how it will shake out.

As Miguel Cabrera said after Game 1, "Anything can happen right now."

What we do know is that Madison Bumgarner will oppose Doug Fister on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 first pitch) at AT&T Park, looking to give San Francisco a 2-0 series advantage that 78 percent of teams have turned into a title.

With all due respect to Fister, Bumgarner is the most intriguing part of the picture here. Because the Giants, forced to scramble a bit in their rotation after the seven-game NLCS, are clearly rolling the dice in bringing him back into the fold after two rough outings in the NL Division Series and NLCS rounds.

In the regular season, Bumgarner tied Ryan Vogelsong with the second-best adjusted ERA on the starting staff, trailing only Matt Cain. But in the postseason, Bumgarner has been tattooed for 10 runs in eight innings, enduring a notable velocity dip. It forced San Francisco to skip past him later in the NLCS.

"I think we were going through some mechanical issues ... just some small things that might have affected my arm and made it more difficult to throw," Bumgarner said. "I think that's really all it was."

If that is really all it was and Bumgarner can recapture his regular-season form (he was 16-11 with a 3.37 ERA in 32 regular-season starts), that obviously bodes well for the Giants extending their early advantage.

And if they do, they're in good company. Of the 51 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 40 have gone on to nail it down.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

"This is a great way to start," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "But that's what it is -- a start."

After falling behind 2-0 in the NLDS, then 1-0 and 3-1 in the NLCS, the Giants probably don't know what to do with themselves now they actually have a series lead. They've seen, from the other side, how fleeting such leads can be, of course, and they have a tough challenge on their hands in Fister.

The Tigers have faith in Fister because in his last four postseason starts -- dating back to Game 5 of the 2011 American League Division Series against the Yankees -- he is 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA. He also had a 2.67 ERA in the second half of the regular season.

Fister, then, has the ability to squash San Francisco's so-called momentum.

"I'm a guy that doesn't believe in momentum in baseball," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I think momentum is your next day's pitcher."

And if the Tigers want to change the tone of this series and head home having salvaged a split, well, they could do a lot worse than to toss the Northern California native out there.

"Growing up, don't tell anybody, I was a Giants fan," Fister said. "Being able to come to a couple games when I was little, it's always been a dream and a goal for me, and now it's happening."

What happened in Game 1, where the Tigers are concerned, was a distinct difference from the LCS round. A Giants offense that thrives on putting the ball in play and avoiding strikeouts took advantage of Verlander's troubles in commanding his fastball. San Francisco also got a big bounce in the luck department, with Angel Pagan's double off the third-base bag opening the door to a three-run third that changed the scope of the game. And whereas Detroit's troubles with Jose Valverde proved to be an ongoing concern, Tim Lincecum was enormously effective in relief of Zito.

The only downside for the Giants is that using Lincecum in long relief in Game 1 prevents him as a possibility in Game 2. So that further puts the onus on Bumgarner to turn in a quality start.

This is the Giants' opportunity to take full advantage of their home-field advantage. This is the Tigers' chance to quiet all those comparisons to their quick exit after a long layoff in 2006.

This is Game 2, and it will show us what kind of Series we have here.

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