The Reds, National League Central champions in both 2010 and 2012, look to make a better showing in the postseason this year than two years ago. In 2010, the Reds faced the defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Divisional Series. Cincinnati was swept in three games by Philly, including being victims to a no-hitter in game 1 by Roy Halladay. The Reds traveled back to Cincinnati, embarrassed and dejected by a poor showing in their first playoff appearance in 15 years.
The Giants, on the other hand, came away from the NLDS with a series victory over Atlanta in four games. The series was plagued by poor play in the field by both teams. Each game was decided by one run, and it usually came in the final inning for the winning team. In the National League Championship Series, the Giants defeated the heavily favored Phillies in six games to earn their first National League pennant in eight years. The Giants then defeated the Texas Rangers in the World Series to clinch their first title since 1954.
The Reds started the 2012 season as contenders for first place in the National League Central with St. Louis, defending NL Champs. The Cardinals, without Albert Pujols, faded quickly into the season. But the Reds did not look like they had the season under control. At the half-way mark of the season, Pittsburgh had taken control of the division. When 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto went down with a knee injury that required surgery, it seemed as though the Reds' season may be over. However, with Votto out, the Reds went 33-16, including a period in which they won 10 straight games to gain sole possession of first place in the NL Central--and there was no looking back.
At the start of 2012, it looked like the NL West was the Dodgers' division to lose. But when Matt Kemp went down with an injury in June, the team quickly faded and the Giants, despite their many injuries and poor hitting, took over the division.
The Giants have been playing lights out baseball for the past month, winning 22 of their last 33. However, they have not played well against Cincinnati this year, losing four of seven games. The Giants will throw Matt Cain in game one. Cain boasts a 16-5 record, 2.79 ERA, and led the team in strikeouts. Not to mention, Cain has thrown a perfect game this season.
While pitching is definitely the Giants' strong point, batting is probably their weak point. While the team is third in the National League in batting average (.269), they are last in home runs (103). While this may be due to the fact that the Giants play in a left-handed hitter's ballpark, they do play 82 games on the road every year.
The Reds also boast strong pitching, including a bullpen that may be the best in baseball. The Giants' game plan should be to score runs early on the starter, because when the Reds choose to go to the bullpen, led by flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, runs will be scarce.
Another strong point for the Reds are their left-handed sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. They will definitely look to take advantage of the short right-field fence in San Francisco. But a weakness for the Reds is their knack of striking out. The Reds were tied for fifth in the league in strikeouts (1,266). Most of the strikeouts come from center fielder Drew Stubbs (5th in league) and right fielder Jay Bruce (7th).
Prediction: All games in the series will be close, but the Reds will win the first two in San Francisco, led by strong pitching performances by Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, and the bullpen. The Giants will win game three in Cincinnati, but the Reds will close out the series in game four.