The Giants’ chances of storming back to take three straight from the Reds in Cincinnati are obviously very small. Only four teams have come back from down 0-2 to win a series in a five-game format. Clearly, the Giants face a steep hill to climb, with history against them.
Nothing was chaotic about the scene in San Francisco when the Reds deprived the Giants of any positive results. Season ticket holders were saying their presumable last good byes for the season in assumption that Sunday’s game was the final game of the year at AT&T. Fans filed out of the stadium in bunches far from the game’s conclusion. The only thing that transpired into some cheers from the crowd was Tim Lincecum making a relief appearance when the game was already out of reach for the Giants. It just wasn’t what they had planned after breezing through the final few weeks of the season.
Now, with all odds against them, they have to sweep the Reds at Great American Park to avoid elimination. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Cincinnati has out-pitched and outhit the Giants, outscoring San Francisco 14-2 over the first two games of the series. Not to the mention that all the momentum is on their side, up 2-0 and playing in front of their fans for the rest of the series.
The clear strength of the Giants entering the playoffs was their strong starting pitching, which was such a powerful strength that the Nationals and Reds jockeyed for the top seed in the NL to the final day of the season just to avoid a date with the Giants in the division series.
Then, when the Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto departed after just eight pitches in Game 1, the Giants appeared well on their way with Matt Cain on the mound. Yet, that was far from the truth. Cain struggled mightily, struggling through five innings, while Mat Latos made his first relief appearance of his career a dominant one. It’s not like the Giants didn’t have any chances. They just didn’t capitalize on them when they were offered.
However, this year’s regular season version of the Giants hasn’t looked anything like the playoff Giants thus far. Some overlook the fact that San Francisco scored the sixth most runs in the National League this year, and that’s a higher ranking then the Reds, who finished ninth.
Then again, it’s understandable that the casual fan would overlook that fact given the Giants’ performance during the first two games. Realistically, the only bright spot was Buster Posey’s solo home run in the sixth inning on Saturday night. The only other run they scored over the weekend was on Aroldis Chapman’s wild pitch which was generated by a walk and a double.
So the question is, where has their improved offense pondered off to? Maybe those ten meaningless games played a factor in their offensive collapse at home, but the Reds clinched on the same day as they did. The more feasible explanation, though, is that the Reds simply pitched them well, much like they have done to their opponents all year.
In spite of that explanation, the Giants are a much better road hitting team then they are at the spacious AT&T Park. To put things into perspective, they scored the most runs on the road this year in the National League. At home, they scored the 12th most. That’s a pretty substantial difference whatever way you prefer to put it.
Why am I bringing their home and away splits up?
Because as the series changes scenery, so do the expectations. As aforementioned, the Giants are a very good road hitting team, and playing games three through five at GAP (Great American Park) should play in their advantage because of that. Of course, it will play in the Reds’ advantage as well because they are at home. What it really does is even the playing field out for both offenses.
Per ESPN Park factors, GAP allowed the second most home runs per game out of all 30 major league stadiums during the regular season. Further more, the Giants hit a few deep drives that barely reached the warning track during the first two games at home, whereas in Cincinnati they would have been long gone.
No, it’s not a well-tested hypothesis, but just from a general standpoint, the Giants would have scored a few more runs in games one and two had they been at GAP.
Plus, the Giants’ offense can not get much worse, meaning that an outburst seems on the horizon; it’s just whether or not they can outburst for three consecutive games to keep their hopes alive. The same theory goes for their pitching; it can only go upwards from Sunday’s disaster.
In simple terms, it’s do or die time for the Giants.