Cubs

Giants take Game 2 over Tigers

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Giants take Game 2 over Tigers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A Giant dose of small ball, and suddenly San Francisco finds itself in a most unique position - way ahead in a postseason series.

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 the Giants.

Game 3 will be Saturday night in Detroit and for once, the masters of the October comeback aren't playing from behind. The Giants 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.

The loss certainly left the favored Tigers wondering what else could go wrong. Prince Fielder was thrown out at the plate by a hair and moments later starting pitcher Doug Fister was struck squarely in the head by a line drive.

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 in a huge hole heading back to Comerica Park. Anibal Sanchez will start for the Tigers against Ryan Vogelsong in Detroit.

The Tigers looked foggy at the plate, maybe still lost following a five-day layoff after an ALCS sweep of the Yankees. Cabrera hopped up and twisted away after third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who homered three times in the opener, snared his early line drive.

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.

This game was scoreless in the seventh when the Giants went ahead, right after actor Tom Hanks - a former peanut vendor at the nearby Oakland Coliseum - sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on the field.

Pence led off with a single and Fister departed, getting lots of hugs in the dugout. Rookie reliever Drew Smyly walked Brandon Belt on a full-count pitch and Blanco's bunt loaded the bases.

The Tigers kept their infield back up the middle, and had no play at the plate on Crawford's bouncer.

Pence added the insurance run the next inning with his flyball off Octavio Dotel.

Fielder and the Tigers came up inches short of taking an early lead, the result of yet another alert play by second baseman Marco Scutaro and a dubious decision by third base coach Gene Lamont.

Fielder was hit by a pitch to lead off the second, Delmon Young followed with a double and when the ball rattled around in left field, Lamont waved the burly slugger home. Even with no outs, Lamont sent him.

Scutaro, in the middle of every big play for the Giants this month, dashed across the diamond, caught Blanco's relay and unleashed a strong throw to the plate. All-Star catcher Buster Posey made a swipe tag to Fielder's backside, just as the Tigers star slid home. Umpire Dan Iassogna had a clear look and made a demonstrative call - out!

Fielder immediately popped up from his slide and pleaded his case with two hands. Tigers manager Jim Leyland rushed out and pointed to the plate. At second base, Young yelled, "No!"

But even if there was replay review, it wouldn't have helped the Tigers. Because TV replays showed Iassogna, working his first plate job in a World Series, got it right.

There was no dispute that Fister somehow avoided a serious injury moments later.

With two outs in the Giants second, Blanco lined a shot up the middle that hit Fister on the right side of the 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.

Leyland, pitching coach Jeff Jones and a trainer went to the mound, and Fister insisted on staying in the game. He walked the next batter to load the bases, but retired Bumgarner on a popup, starting a streak of 12 straight hitters set down by Fister.

Among those who winced was Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who sustained a skull fracture and brain contusion after being hit by a line drive last month.

"I'm not watching but did just see the replay. Certainly hope he's ok," McCarthy tweeted.

NOTES: Bumgarner struck out Austin Jackson and Omar Infante to start the game. Two other Giants fanned the first two batters in a Series game: Christy Mathewson (1905) and Carl Hubbell (1933). ... Bumgarner picked off Infante at first base to end the fourth. Infante made a break for second and, like Fielder earlier, came up short with his slide. ... Scutaro was the only Giants hitter to have previously faced Fister. ... Posey has a hit in all seven World Series games in his career.

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The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

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USA TODAY

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is alive and well and this offseason has been further proof of that.

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't made a rivalry-altering move like inking Jake Arrieta to a megadeal, but they have proven that they are absolutely coming after the Cubs and the top of the division.

However, a move the St. Louis brass made Friday afternoon may actually be one that makes Cubs fans cheer.

The Cardinals traded outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday in exhange for a pair of right-handed pitchers: Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Leone is the main draw here as a 26-year-old reliever who posted a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 70.1 innings last year in Toronto.

But this is the second young position player the Cardinals have traded to Toronto this offseason and Grichuk is a notorious Cub Killer.

Grichuk struggled overall in 2017, posting a second straight year of empty power and not much else. But he once again hammered the Cubs to the tune of a .356 batting average and 1.240 OPS. 

He hit six homers and drove in 12 runs in just 14 games (11 starts) against Joe Maddon's squad. That's 27 percent of his 2017 homers and 20 percent of his season RBI numbers coming against just one team.

And it wasn't just one year that was an aberration. In his career, Grichuk has a .296/.335/.638 slash line against the Cubs, good for a .974 OPS. He's hit 11 homers and driven in 33 runs in 37 games, the highest ouput in either category against any opponent.

Even if Leone builds off his solid 2017 and pitches some big innings against the Cubs over the next couple seasons, it will be a sigh of relief for the Chicago pitching staff knowing they won't have to face the threat of Grichuk 18+ times a year.

Plus, getting a reliever and a low-level starting pitching prospect back for a guy (Grichuk) who was borderline untouchable a couple winters ago isn't exactly great value. The same can be said for the Cardinals' trade of Aledmys Diaz to Toronto on Dec. 1 for essentially nothing.

A year ago, St. Louis was heading into the season feeling confident about Diaz, who finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2016 after hitting .300 with an .879 OPS as a 25-year-old rookie. He wound up finishing 2017 in the minors after struggling badly to start the season and the Cardinals clearly didn't want to wait out his growing pains.

The two trades with Toronto limits the Cardinals' depth (as of right now) and leaves very few proven options behind shortstop Paul DeJong and outfielder Tommy Pham, who both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2017.

Meet the Prospects: Blake Rutherford

Meet the Prospects: Blake Rutherford

The White Sox rebuild is in full swing. While it might still be a year or two before the big league team is expected to start competing for championships, the minor leagues are stocked with highly touted talent fans will be eagerly following in 2018. With that in mind, it's time to Meet the Prospects and get to know the future of the South Side.

Blake Rutherford

Rutherford, the 20-year-old outfielder, was the highest-rated piece of the return package that came back to the White Sox in the seven-player deal that sent Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees last summer.

A California native, Rutherford was the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft. After only playing rookie ball post-draft in 2016, he played 71 games with Class A Charleston last year before the trade, slashing .281/.342/.391 with 20 doubles and 30 RBIs to go along with a pair of home runs. After the trade, Rutherford played in 30 games with Class A Kannapolis, slashing .213/.289/.254 with 26 hits and 13 walks.

As of their most recent rankings, MLB Pipeline had Rutherford rated as the No. 4 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Get to know Rutherford in the video above.