Sunday’s game will determine who the Giants really are. Sure, they clinched their division with double digit games to spare, they have an MVP candidate in Buster Posey to anchor down the corps, but nothing else will determine the success of their 2012 season more than game two of this five game division series.
Game two features a tale of two different time periods for Madison Bumgarner. A time period that saw him look like a legitimate Cy Young contender, and a pitcher who significantly built on his 2011 campaign, and a time period that made him look like nothing but the inconsistent Bumgarner of 2011.
The Giants’ lefty comes into his start fourth career postseason start having struggled in prior weeks. Over his last seven starts, he has posted a rather high 5.89 ERA, and his mechanics have been noticeably off which has led to an increased walk rate from the usually stubborn Bumgarner.
But the Reds and the adrenaline of the postseason figures to help Bumgarner snap out of his slump. For one, he tossed a one-hitter against the same Reds in late June, instantly jolting a sense of confidence through him and the Giants. And secondly, AT&T Park has been a place of safety for him since he broke into the major leagues with it’s spacious dimensions and brisk air that knocks long drives down, especially at night which is indeed is the conditions for Sunday’s game.
Bumgarner is no stranger to the spotlight of the playoffs, either. The young southpaw shutout the Rangers in the World Series over eight spectacular innings and posted a total 2.18 ERA in four postseason appearances during that magical 2010 run for the Giants. That’s the most pressure a pitch can face and Bumgarner shined.
The calm and cool lefty seemingly thrives under the amounted pressure of the postseason. The Giants, who are down 0-1 in the series, don’t have the benefit of losing another game at their home park, and certainly can’t fall behind 0-2 heading back to Cincinnati.
The home field disadvantage for the Reds figured to benefit the Giants, originally. And when the Reds lost their ace after only eight pitches in game one, that Giants seemed to have an even more leverage on their opponents. It just goes to show that nothing, and I mean nothing, is predictable in the postseason. Conceivably, after stealing game one, the Reds are in the drivers seat, sniffing the excitement of heading back to their fired up city on Tuesday.
The Giants let a huge opportunity to go ahead in the series last night, setting up a practical do or die game tonight, as winning three straight on the road is nearly impossible.
A win tonight, though, will surely bolster their hopes of moving on to the NLCS as they head back to Great American Park.