5 Ways SF Giants Can Launch Miraculous NLDS Comeback Against Cincinnati Reds
The Giants will have to win three straight games against a team that has beaten them six out of nine times in the 2012 season and outscored them 14-2 so far in the division series. They'll have to win three straight games on the road against a team that didn't get swept at home—much less lose three in a row at home—all season.
The odds aren't good, but as long as there's still a chance, let's take a look at five reasons why the Giants might be able to pull off a miracle upset in Cincinnati starting on Tuesday.
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Giants manager Bruce Bochy made the right choice in selecting Ryan Vogelsong as his Game 3 starter over Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.
Vogelsong was arguably the Giants' best pitcher until a rough seven-start stretch beginning in mid-August temporarily derailed his season. Vogelsong put it back together before the end of the season by throwing exceptionally well in his final three turns through the rotation.
After getting two poor starts from Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner to open the division series, the Giants will at least have their best shot at a quality start with Vogelsong in Game 3. He led the Giants with 22 quality starts in 2012, and tied for second in the rotation with a 3.37 ERA.
Vogelsong looked particularly strong in his final outing of the season on Wednesday. In five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he allowed only one unearned run while striking out seven. His fastball was up to 95 miles per hour, and he induced 12 swings-and-misses.
A strong performance from Vogelsong could turn the series around for the Giants.
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The Giants have got Buster Posey, and the Reds do not.
Of course, that hasn't mattered much in this series with Brandon Phillips (.500/.500/1.000), Joey Votto (.429/.500/.429), Ryan Ludwick (.333/.500/.833) and Jay Bruce (.333/.333/.889) pounding the Giants pitching staff into submission.
Still, if the Giants could get a rally started in front of Posey, a big hit from their clutch clean-up hitter could inspire the team with some confidence.
Better yet, perhaps a timely hit from Posey could give the Giants a lead for the first time in this series.
Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco have done a nice job of getting on base at the bottom of the lineup so far in the series, but Posey (.286/.444/.714) is the only Giant who has done any damage.
An MVP performance from the leading NL MVP candidate over the final three games of the series could carry the Giants forward if the top of the lineup can start getting on base.
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Matt Cain didn't pitch particularly well in Game 1, allowing three runs and two homers in five innings of work. He also struggled against the Reds in two regular season starts (0-2, 5.54 ERA).
That just means he's due against them!
Well, it might not mean that, but Cain has been a very adaptable pitcher throughout his career—which makes him a good bet to correct his woes against the Reds, given another chance.
If the Giants can win Game 3 behind Vogelsong, Cain should be ready to go on three days rest for Game 4, since he only threw 75 pitches on Saturday night.
Thus, even though he's had his struggles against the Reds this year, the Giants will be in a position to even the series with their best pitcher on the mound if they win Game 3.
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The Giants aren't as bad as they've looked this series, and the Reds aren't as good as they've looked, either.
During the regular season, the Reds were the better team—winning 97 games to the Giants' 94. The Reds also had the better run differential (+81 to +69), and won the head-to-head matchup (4-to-3).
However, those numbers suggest that these two teams are more evenly matched than this NLDS has played out so far. With one more loss equaling elimination, there's not a lot of time for things to regress to the mean for the Giants, unfortunately.
However, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Giants start to pitch better while getting more offensive contributions from some key players—particularly at the top of the lineup.
Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval
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Angel Pagan (1-for-9), Marco Scutaro (0-for-8, BB) and Pablo Sandoval (2-for-9) have combined to reach base just four times in 27 plate appearances in front of Posey so far in this series.
During the season Pagan (.338 OBP), Scutaro (.348) and Sandoval (.342) had on-base percentages well above the league average of .319.
Again, the Giants are just one more lousy game from elimination, so there's not much time for those three to get it going. Yet if they can get hot in front of Posey for the next few games, the Giants offense could get back on track in time to win three straight and advance.
It's somewhat surprising that the Reds came into AT&T Park and completely dominated the Giants this weekend. It would be very surprising if the Giants traveled to Cincinnati and won three straight games to advance to the NLCS.
Anything is possible in baseball, which is why it's the greatest sport to follow—particularly in the postseason when everything is magnified because of the pressure and the small sample sizes involved.
The Giants are desperate right now. Time and momentum are not on their side. Yet there remains a small chance that they can go sweep the Reds and live to see another series.
Vogelsong could shut down the Reds in Game 3. Cain could redeem himself in Game 4. The top of the lineup could get hot in front of Posey, who could continue his excellent second-half and postseason performance.
There's an endless series of possibilities that remain, though the odds are strongly in the Reds' favor. But until the Giants are officially eliminated, they might as well grasp at the positive things that could save their season.