The Giants have battled the odds and scratched and clawed their way to two straight wins, putting them in a situation on Thursday where they can advance to the NLCS with a victory over the Reds.
San Francisco will, again, be the unanimous underdog. Yet, they’re a much different team then they were three days ago. Their confidence is on an entirely different level then it was on Sunday. Instead, they look like the team that won the National League West with ten games to spare. The offense that isn’t regarded as a pitcher’s dream, and the group of guys that rally behind each other each step of the way.
Can they make it three straight?
Momentum is Back On Their Side
After doubling their output in game four from the previous three games of the series with eight runs, the tables have turned. Contributing to the eight runs were three home runs off the bats of Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, and Pablo Sandoval. More importantly, the Giants 1-3 hitters drove in six runs, after being nearly non-existent through the first three games of the series.
Simply put, an outburst was a relief for manager Bruce Bochy, albeit a long-awaited relief. San Francisco scored just two runs on Saturday, no runs on Sunday, and only two runs on Tuesday thanks to some defensive miscues by the Reds. Wednesday, defensive miscues didn’t factor into the final score, just sheer hitting.
Wednesday was also a sign that the Giants’ offense who scored the third most runs in the National League during September and October, could be back. A sign of such is certainly intriguing and will be necessary for them to win game five on Thursday.
No longer do the Reds have leverage on the Giants. It’s anyone’s game on Thursday with the series tied at two games apiece.
Home Away From Home
Thus far, playing at home hasn’t benefitted either team. Ironic, right? After weeks of the baseball world hyping up home field advantage, the results have been the exact opposite of what was expected. And that trend isn’t just this series. Both wild card winners won on the road as well last Friday.
San Francisco received a good smacking in the face after dropping two games at AT&T Park over the weekend, while Cincinnati has lost two straight in their home park to match their counterpart. Therefore, the benefit of playing at home doesn’t resemble to be much of a factor so far. Will it? Probably not.
Plus, the Giants don’t mind escaping from the spacious AT&T Park. During the regular season, they were statistically the best road offense in the N.L. Great American Park assuredly plays to that strength more so than their pitching that hasn’t shown up, yet.
Further more, GAP surrendered the second most home runs out of all 30 stadiums during the regular season. Plus, Thursday’s showdown is slated to begin during the day which means that fly balls will get more carry, leading to more home runs. This isn’t to say that the Reds won’t benefit from the more hitter friendly environment, but the Giants will reap the luxury a bit more, as they proved in game four, and all throughout the regular season.
Cain wasn’t great in game one. In fact, he was so pedestrian that many thought that he wouldn’t pitch again this year because the team follows his lead. If he struggles, the rest of the pitching staff follows suit. Madison Bumgarner did just that on Sunday, Ryan Vogelsong was solid but didn’t log many innings (5), and Barry Zito’s feeble performance on Wednesday appears to be the worst of them all.
However, Thursday provides Cain a chance to wipe the slate clean. If he performs, last Saturday night will be a distant memory in the minds of Giants’ faithful. It’s that simple.
Additionally, Cain thrived in the postseason before his game one start. He didn’t allow a run during the Giants 2010 World Series run and was ultimately one of the unsung heroes during that magical season. That experience, alone, figures to be an advantage that he can slip in his back pocket, but not too big of a weapon that clearly gives him significant edge on Mat Latos, the Reds scheduled starter.