The San Francisco Giants have made their way back to the postseason, and the road to the World Series will not be easy.
This weekend they will face the Cincinnati Reds, a team solid in just about every aspect. The Giants have a tough series ahead of them but can push through to the NLCS with a few key goals.
These keys range from offense to defense to pitching. The postseason means everything is amplified. One mistake could be the difference between a World Series trophy and an early trip home.
The NLDS is likely to be one pitching duel after another, with the Reds and Giants pitching staffs ranked fourth and seventh in ERA respectively and near-identical opponent batting average. Matt Cain will start Game 1 for the Giants and will look to improve against the Reds after losing both starts against Cincinnati this year.
It’s uncertain how Tim Lincecum will perform if and when he faces the Reds, but he seems to be on the right track after an awful first half.
The Giants need to avoid the big innings with the Reds, and that can be done by making sure those leadoff hitters don’t get on base. Cincinnati ranked last in the league when it came to batting average and on-base percentage for their hitters in the one-spot.
San Francisco’s pitching staff—starters and relievers—need to make sure no one is on base once the big hitters get to the plate.
Buster Posey needs to stay hot throughout the postseason, get on base and continue to call great games. He’s had a MVP-caliber season and must keep it going if the Giants want to have an offensive chance.
The rest of the lineup needs to come through as well, but Posey will continue to be the center of San Francisco’s offense—as long as he gets opportunities at the plate.
The batting champ will not get as many opportunities to hit if Hunter Pence doesn’t come become consistent. The San Francisco Giants traded for Pence to add another bat to the lineup, and while he has had great moments so far, he has yet to create a constant threat.
Pence needs to get hot and stay hot if Buster Posey wants to have any chance of seeing decent at-bats. If he doesn't provide security in the lineup behind Posey, then intentional walks will be all too familiar this month.
Marco Scutaro is rolling into playoffs off a 20-game hitting streak and will be another huge part of the Giants’ momentum. The Giants win by small-ball, as shown by their last place finish in home runs this season.
Angel Pagan needs to be another player to heat up this month. His league-leading 13 triples were a huge reason for San Francisco's success this year. A Pagan-Scutaro tandem is the catalyst the Giants offense needs to get to the Reds early.
The last thing the Giants want to deal with is trailing or being tied while heading into the seventh inning. The Reds’ starters have been great but their relievers are nails, at the top of the league with a 2.65 ERA.
The Giants needs to get ahead in the game early so they just need to focus on shutting down Cincy’s offense without having to hope they can score a couple runs against that bullpen late in the game.
San Francisco committed the fourth most errors in the league during the season, but cleaned it up toward the end stretch. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt have shown how important defense is to the Giants’ game.
With such a talented pitching staff coming to the bay, the Giants’ defense needs to be on point to preserve any lead they create. The series could end up being decided by which team makes fewer mistakes.