Giants vs. Reds: 4 Things Cincinnati Must Do to Close out the Series
From the opening pitch of the series, Cincinnati has seemed to be in control. This was even after Game 1 starting pitcher Johnny Cueto went out after eight pitches with a back injury.
With the series back in Cincinnati, here are four things the Reds must do to close it out.
Pitch Within Your Abilities
Homer Bailey has been nearly unstoppable in his last two starts.
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Over his last two starts, Homer Bailey has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.
On Sept. 28, Bailey threw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out 10 and giving up one walk. Five days later, he went four innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, gave up no runs and struck out six.
In those two games, Bailey trusted his stuff and didn't try to do too much. He produced 15 outs on the ground of 22 non-strikeout outs as he pitched to his strengths.
With San Francisco having its back up against the wall, manager Bruce Bochy is going to pull out all the stops.
However, if Bailey stays in control, the Giants will have trouble all night. Then in the seventh or eighth inning, Dusty Baker can hand the ball to his bullpen.
Speaking of the Bullpen
Aroldis Chapman struggled in Game 1.
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Unless the Reds are up by three runs or less, Aroldis Chapman should not be in the game in the ninth inning.
For some reason, Chapman is like most closers in that there's not the same level of focus when a save is not on the line. Chapman struggled in Game 1, giving up two walks, a hit and an earned run before striking out Buster Posey to end the game.
While Chapman is the best pitcher in the bullpen, Baker must remember to put his closer in situations where he can be successful. Coming into games with a lead of four or more runs isn't putting Chapman in the best position to succeed.
Instead, guys like J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton can take care of finishing the game.
Get an Early Lead
The Reds are 31-13 when leading after the first inning.
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In 44 games this year, the Reds scored in the first inning. In those games, Cincinnati went 31-13.
When the Reds were tied after the first, they went 51-38. When they trailed, they were 15-14. Needless to say, the Reds have had a lot of success when scoring in the first inning.
The one thing the Reds have been able to do in this series is score first. In Game 1, it was Brandon Phillips' two-run home run in the third inning. In Game 2, it was Ryan Ludwick's home run in the second inning.
While the Reds didn't score in the first inning of those two games, they still scored first. When you take an early lead, the pressure immediately goes to the other team.
Brandon Phillips Must Stay Hot
Brandon Phillips is 5-for-10 in the NLDS.
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Brandon Phillips has been hot the entire division series. He's currently 5-of-10 with one home run, four RBI and two doubles.
With Phillips batting at the top of the lineup, that's vitally important because he's getting on base half the time for the guys behind him. When you can have at least one guy on base for a player like Joey Votto, some serious damage can get done.
Phillips is the table setter and has to continue for the Reds. His ability to put pressure on the defense gives Cincinnati an advantage. If he can do it leading off in the first inning, the Reds can play with an early lead again.
The second baseman is the key to not only this series, but any other potential series they play in.
The Reds are 71-31 this year (including playoffs) when Phillips gets a hit. When he doesn't get a hit, they are 20-27.