The Reds take on the Giants today in a do-or-die Game 5 in less than an hour. Cincinnati just recently announced that they will follow their standard playoff lineup, with Scott Rolen and Ryan Hanigan back at the six and seven slots, respectively.
The Reds gave up a close 2-1 decision in Game 3 on Tuesday, which undoubtedly shifted the momentum in the Giants' favor, giving them a full head of steam to take Game 4 in an 8-3 blowout victory.
In order for the Reds to win Game 5, they're going to need to step up and play better than they have.
First, the defense.
Generally, this is a sound area of the Reds' game. The Reds were the fifth-best fielding team in all of baseball this season, and second in the NL. That all went out the window in Game 3, when a costly Scott Rolen error scored the winning run for the Giants.
In Game 5, Rolen will be well-rested and the Reds will play tight, sound defense behind Mat Latos, who allowed all of six unearned runs this season.
Next, the offense.
The Cincinnati offense has scored in bunches in this NLDS. In four games, the team has scored 18 runs. Unfortunately, half of those runs came in Game 2.
In Game 5, the Reds will need to get to Matt Cain early. In Game 1, the Reds tagged Cain with three earned runs in five innings. The Reds will need early offense if they're going to beat San Francisco today.
Scott Rolen, Drew Stubbs and Zack Cozart will need to show up today for the Reds to win. Cozart, in the two-slot all series, is batting a disappointing .235 on the series while Rolen and Stubbs are batting .182 and .188, respectively.
Zack Cozart will be the player to watch today. Brandon Phillips has done a great job of setting the run-scoring initiative, batting .368 out of the lead-off hole. However, Cozart has struck out five times in 17 at-bats.
Cozart has been an offense-stopper this series, but Game 5 has to be his turning point.
Additionally, mistakes on the base paths will need to be eliminated. Brandon Phillips got greedy Tuesday trying to advance to third base on a wild pitch, after easily stealing second base.
The Reds went on to score that inning, but one has to wonder if they could have scored more had he stayed at second.
Had they scored one more run that inning, the Reds would've carried at least a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, giving Aroldis Chapman the opportunity to close the door on the Giants' season.
Mental mistakes like these will have to be eliminated in order for the Reds to advance.
Finally, the pitching. The Reds pitching, outside of Mike Leake, has been on-point in this series. But yesterday, Leake allowed five of the Giants' eight runs, and six of their 11 hits.
This cannot happen in today's game. Mat Latos has been great in the second half of the season, including his important four innings in Game 1.
However, Latos will need to turn in the performance of a lifetime today in order to turn a lead over to the Reds bullpen.
If the Reds can do all of this, I predict a 4-2 victory, and a trip to the NLCS.