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FRANCISCO -- There are very few hard-and-fast rules for postseason play, because this is a stage in which the quirky and quixotic reside. Anything can happen and usually does.
But here's one rule you can feel pretty safe in assuming will hold up:
If your third-base coach is surrounded by reporters following a World Series game, that's a pretty good sign something bad happened to you.
Something bad happened to Detroit in the second inning on Thursday night at AT&T Park. It was something that, in retrospect, turned out to be the key play of Game 2, because it ended what turned out to be the Tigers' only legitimate scoring opportunity against a Giants team that beat them, 2-0, and sent this series Detroit-bound with the American League champs in an 0-2 hole from which few clubs have escaped.
What happened was this: With no outs, third-base coach Gene Lamont sent Prince Fielder barreling home toward likely National League MVP Award winner Buster Posey with what Lamont hoped would be Detroit's first lead of this Fall Classic. All of Fielder's listed 275 pounds hit the dirt as Marco Scutaro's relay throw whizzed in. Posey put down the tag, and 42,982 fans in AT&T Park held their breath.
"If I had to do it over," Lamont would say later, "I would have held him."
Fielder had some sense of regret, too. Asked if he would have done anything different, the slugger smiled.
"Yeah," Fielder said. "I would have done a flip."
Regret is reasonable, given the circumstances. But Lamont's lament ought not keep him up at night (a red-eye flight to Motown probably kept him up enough). Because the fact of the matter is that it took an absolutely perfect defensive sequence for the Giants to stifle that would-be run.
And really, that ought to be the takeaway of these two games, as a whole. San Francisco has simply made all the plays, routine and otherwise, it takes to crush another club's confidence. Gregor Blanco's diving grabs in left in Game 1, Pablo Sandoval's leaping snare of a Miguel Cabrera rocket and Blanco's textbook-perfect bunt single to keep a rally going in Game 2.
But no play has provided more obvious impact than this one. If the Tigers get that second-inning run off Madison Bumgarner, the entire tone of the game changes.
Lamont knew too well how tough it is to get runs off this Giants pitching staff in the present, and so he saw an opportunity when Delmon Young stroked a ground ball down the third-base line, past a diving Sandoval. The ball scooted over the San Francisco bullpen mound, bounced off the wall in foul territory and kicked back toward left, where Blanco initially overran it but quickly recovered.
"It had a little funny hop when it hit the wall," Blanco said, "but I was ready to get it to them as quick as I can. And then Scutaro ... Scutaro, I don't know where he came from."
Yeah, where did he come from? Second base. That's where. The man who has done so much damage with his bat this postseason made a heady play in the field, quickly shifting toward third base, ready for the relay in case the shortstop was overthrown.
"Cutoffs and relays, that's what you're supposed to do," Scutaro said. "When the ball is hit on the line, you're supposed to go between the shortstop and the plate."
Meanwhile, Fielder was heading home. And what a sight that was. With Lamont waving him hard, Fielder shook the earth as he chugged home, and this did not bode particularly well for Posey, whose horrific leg and ankle injuries after a collision with Scott Cousins in May 2011 prompted a directive from the Giants about not blocking home plate.
Put yourself in Posey's mind in that moment, then, when the big-bodied Fielder made the turn at third.
"You have to be there," Posey said with a laugh, "to know what it's like."
But Posey showed you don't have to block the plate to protect it. Scutaro's throw was on target, Fielder's slide was on point, and Posey's sweep tag was a thing of beauty, applied perfectly on Fielder's derriere just before his foot hit the plate.
"I worked on it in Spring Training," Posey said. "But that was about the most. It's not like I practice it during the season."
The Spring Training work -- Scutaro's cutoffs in Rockies camp and Posey's trained restraint -- loomed large. And credit here also goes to home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna, who made the correct call, despite Fielder's initial protestations.
"I thought I was safe," Fielder said. "I guess I wasn't."
No, he wasn't. And frankly, neither are the Tigers. For when this game got away from them late, the historical odds stockpiled against them. Only 21.2 percent of teams to fall behind 0-2 have rallied back to win the World Series -- a fact that made the missed opportunity in the second sting all the more.
It certainly stung for Lamont, who stood there in front of a group of reporters and admitted he got "overly aggressive."
"You know what the difficult part is?" the third-base coach said. "Nobody wants to talk to you unless you screw up."