Reds vs. Giants: 3 Reasons San Francisco's Momentum Is Now Unstoppable
Joaquin Arias hit two doubles. Pablo Sandoval creamed a two-run home run. Tim Lincecum pitched four-plus innings and yielded one run. The list of players on San Francisco's roster who contributed to their 8-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds is not a short one, although some of the names might surprise you.
What happened Wednesday afternoon at the Great American Ball Park has set the San Francisco Giants up to accomplish a feat no other National League team has ever achieved in a division series. Coming into Cincinnati, the Giants were a sorry lot. They'd just endured a 9-0 drubbing from the Reds on their home turf.
Now, two improbable wins later, the momentum has shifted to San Francisco. The bats they so desperately missed in Games 1 and 2 have reappeared, albeit partially in unlikely hands. Their bullpen, the stalwart of the team's 2010 championship run, has been razor sharp so far. But there are more reasons than these to believe that the Giants may not be finished with this postseason.
Let's take a look at three factors that make San Francisco poised to be unstoppable.
3. Angel Pagan Has Found His Groove
Imagine you're Barry Zito, waiting in the bullpen for the bottom of the first. The pressure is immense, and you know that any mistake you make could likely cost your team its season.
How good would it feel then to see a ball leave Angel Pagan's bat on the second pitch of the game and take its leave of the stadium? Yes, Zito still seemed plenty rattled when he walked the bases loaded later in the same inning, but the fundamental to take away from Pagan's home run is this: The Giants scored first. Their leadoff man delivered.
Pagan would add two walks and a double before the day was done. Not only did his timely hitting account for two RBI, it also afforded Pablo Sandoval the chance to hit with a runner on and sac fly him home.
When Pagan is getting himself on base, he's giving Scutaro, Sandoval and Posey a chance to bring home a run. If he continues to play ball like he did today, the Giants offense will be all the more potent going forward.
2. Pablo Sandoval Is Locked-In
Pablo Sandoval was my X-factor for this series.
By that I mean that the success of the team would depend largely on how much (or little) he contributed.
In the first three games of this NLDS, Sandoval had two hits and no RBI. In Game 4, he had three hits and three RBI. As mentioned earlier, Angel Pagan played a supporting role in Sandoval's success, but the Kung Fu Panda held his own and did plenty to ensure his team's season lasted at least one day longer.
Sandoval hitting well is incredibly important. First off, if Pagan or Scutaro get aboard, he is able to drive them in. Secondly, if he gets himself on base, he's set the table for Posey and Pence. Third, and perhaps most crucial of all, if Sandoval is hitting well, he gives his starting pitcher a chance to take the mound with a lead already in place.
You can't measure an intangible like reassurance, but it can make a world of difference to a pitcher like Madison Bumgarner or Ryan Vogelsong.
And if you give the Giants' starting pitchers a reason to feel confident, look out.
1. Tim Lincecum Is Back
It took an elimination Game 4 on the road for Tim Lincecum to shake the cobwebs.
His contribution to the San Francisco Giants' 8-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds was almost otherworldly. The Freak reached deep into his arsenal of tricks to deliver 4.1 dominant innings. He allowed only two hits, struck out six and stifled a potent Reds offense desperate to avoid a decisive Game 5.
Even in the moments where the cracks started to show, Lincecum did not revert to imploding on the mound, the tactic that cost him so dearly throughout the regular season. He was called in with two runners on in the bottom of the fourth inning to preserve a precarious 3-2 lead. Timmy struck out the home run-happy Ryan Ludwick
What role there is for Lincecum to play in Game 5 and beyond will be the source of immense speculation. Having already delivered two scoreless innings of relief in Game 2 of this series, one must assume that Lincecum is encased in "Break in Case of Emergency" glass.
But should San Francisco do the unthinkable and complete a three-game comeback against the Reds, the question of whether to revert Lincecum back to a starter in the NLCS series will be looming large.