SAN FRANCISCO Where would the Giants be without Gregor Blanco? Seriously? If Blanco wasn't around to pick up the pieces, dive for all those sinking line drives and lay down that one crazy bunt after his good friend Melky Cabrera was tagged with that 50-game suspension?
Just a guess here, but the Giants probably wouldn't be traveling to Detroit with a 2-0 advantage and all the momentum in this wacky best-of-seven World Series.
"You have to have luck," Blanco said after Thursday's 2-0 shutout of the Tigers. "That's what we have right now."
Weird things just keep happening. AT&T Park has been transformed into a house of horrors for the opposition. Broken-bat doubles. Ground balls that hit third base with a thud, bounce into the air, then slice into the outfield. RBI singles by starting pitchers. Three home runs in one game by Pablo Sandoval. MVP performances by an embarrassingly underrated second baseman. And, suddenly, a once-shaky pitching staff that is formidable, unhittable, unbeatable.
But back to Blanco. He is pinching himself, too. He didn't spend a single day in the major leagues last season and only joined the Giants after being traded from Kansas City to Washington, released by the Nationals while he was recovering from bone spurs in his ankle.
Short on outfielders and how is this for being prescient? Brian Sabean signed him for insurance purposes back in November. A native of Venezuela, the slightly built Blanco made 90 starts and played all three outfield positions, enduring slumps and occasional hitting streaks but these last two nights in particular, making everyone forget about Cabrera and his suspension for violating the league's drug policy.
On Wednesday, Blanco raced in from deep left and made two diving catches just above his ankle, robbing Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera of extra-base hits. On Thursday, he was even more important, more impressive, more valuable and never more so in the mix.
Blanco who also was the guy who preserved Matt Cain's perfect game in the regular season with a tremendous catch in deep center couldn't even choose which of the evening's plays he liked the best. Was it the ball he overthrew to Brandon Crawford, that somehow went directly to Marco Scutaro, who was backing up the play and fired to Buster Posey for the nifty swipe-tag on Prince Fielder? The one where Fielder seemed to forget he was a heavyweight, and not a heavyweight sprinter? The Detroit run that got away?
"I don't know who he was throwing to," Crawford said later, with a grin, "but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time."
Or was it the bunt that loaded the bases in the seventh and preceded Crawford's RBI grounder for the only run that mattered for Madison Bumgarner, only the latest Giants starter to turn in a superb start? It was the bunt, of course, the bunt Blanco called the best little dribbler of his career.
"I wasn't even trying to bunt for a single," Blanco said. "I was trying to sacrifice, to sacrifice myself."
That's not what happened, though. With the crowd screaming, standing, anticipating those wild and crazy developments that have been characteristic of this postseason, he greeted Tigers reliever Drew Smyly with a tapper down the third-base line. While Cabrera circled and waited, watching and hoping, and knowing he would never catch the speedy Blanco at first, the ball skidded onto the edges of the infield grass. Then it sliced back onto the dirt. Then it moved a few more feet up the line. And then it died, a slow, wonderful death.
"Best bunter on the team," a delighted Scutaro blurted later, nodding toward Blanco. "Who do you think?"
Like many of his teammates, Blanco waited a long time for a night like this. He is 28 years old. He was a non-roster invitee to spring training. If Cabrera hadn't been suspended, or if the Giants brought him back for the NLCS, who knows whether any of this would have happened.
But it did. The throw, the bunt, the victory. That 2-0 Series lead.
Yes, it did.