Can the Giants play from ahead?

Now we’ll finally get to see how the San Francisco Giants play with a lead this postseason. And if Game 2 of the World Series is any indication, the answer is just as well as when they’re facing elimination.

Much has been made of the Giants’ 6-0 record this postseason in elimination games; of course, this meant they were 1-5 in non-elimination games entering the Series. No more.

Which begs one question: How bad were the Yankees in the ALCS if the team which manhandled them is being manhandled in the Series (know who misses the Yankees? Fox. Wednesday’s Game 1 was the least-watched Series opener ever, with just 12.2 million viewers tuned in. I’m guessing there were a lot less by the seventh inning).

The Tigers go home for Games 3-5, where they will face the Giants’ two best pitchers (Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong), and they’ve got little else to bank on but a change of scenery. Their ace, Justin Verlander, made 63 straight starts over three years that were at least six innings; he couldn’t even reach the fifth in Game 1. Their closer, Jose Valverde, was awful again, giving up four hits and getting one out. Unfortunately for the Tigers, there’s been nothing to close but their expectations.

The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are 2-for-11 with no extra-base hits, and Detroit’s offensive output is two doubles, a bases-empty home run, seven singles, four walks and heavy men shuffling around the bases like the last finishers in a Saturday morning 5K (let’s also note home-plate ump Dan Iassogna got the call right, even if third-base coach Gene Lamont did not).

The Giants are winning the way National League teams so often have: pitching, speed and defense. The Tigers’ answer should be the three-run homer, but it’s hard to hit any when the bases are so often empty.

About the only one with an idea on how to shut the Giants down is ex-Mets GM Steve Phillips, who told host Christopher Russo on Sirius’ Mad Dog Radio the Giants don’t deserve to be in the playoffs because Melky Cabrera cheated.

“Melky Cabrera cheated, and the Giants benefited,” said Phillips. “They should have not only suspended him, but taken away wins from the Giants. The Giants received the benefits of a player who cheated, and it allowed them to win more games.”

(Phillips also told Russo somebody has to be the voice of reason; in conversation with a screamer, Phillips comes across as if he were Thomas Paine).

Phillips’ comments aren’t as absurd as his timing — two games into the World Series is a little late to be doling out punishment for an offense uncovered in August, and a little late to be changing the rules. And it’s not as if the Giants condoned Cabrera’s ethically challenged .346 average — he’s been eligible to play for the NLCS and World Series, and the Giants prefer Gregor Blanco. It’s commendable, although the team that reaped the benefits of Barry Bonds should be sensitive on the subject of PEDs.

Phillips’ point — or at least what I’m taking from it — is simple: if you really want to do something about steroids in baseball, punish not just the offender, but the employer, too. Policing might be far more serious and efficient if the folks around the cheaters daily stand to lose, too.

Of course there’s a reason Phillips’ suggestion won’t get any more momentum than Fielder going from first to home: nobody knows who else is cheating. You don’t hear Yankees’ fans raising much stink about the 2004 Red Sox’s miracle comeback, powered by twice-suspended Manny Ramirez and the Mitchell List’s David Ortiz. It’s not as if New York’s clubhouse was clean. And you don’t hear Red Sox fans questioning the morality of that comeback. After 86 years, winning is winning.

Which is what the Giants are doing, far better than they did when Melky was in the lineup. They finished the regular season 30-15 without him, and are now 9-5 in the postseason.

Makes you wonder what Melky was doing to hold them back.

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