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San Francisco Giants: Taking a Look at the Starting Rotation in NLCS

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 10:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Cincinnati Reds in Game Four of the National League Division Series at the Great American Ball Park on October 10, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Scott SemmlerAnalyst IIOctober 12, 2012

The San Francisco Giants became the first team in MLB history to claim victory in a five-game series by winning three straight games on the road, and now the waiting begins. 

If the Nationals take down the Cardinals at home in Game 5 Friday, then the Giants will travel to Washington D.C. to play the first two games of the series.

If St. Louis takes down the Nationals, then the Giants start at AT&T Park in front of a home crowd ready to welcome home a team they never saw win in the 2012 NLDS.

However, Bruce Bochy and the Giants also have some decisions to make with a starting rotation that was key in their three straight victories over Cincinnati. 

Ace Matt Cain is out of the equation until at least Game 3. He'll have five days rest and be primed to start Game 3 (Tuesday would be a travel day either on the road or heading home).

With that said, we can fully expect Madison Bumgarner to earn a Game 1 start. He started Game 2 at home in the NLDS vs. the Reds and only lasted 4.1 innings, while giving up four runs on seven hits.

Game 2 is where it gets dicey for Bochy.

CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly reports Bochy had this to say about Tim Lincecum starting in the NLCS on Wednesday:

Oh, I think you have to...He stepped up and did a terrific job. He had a great look about him and...he really came through for us. When you’re on this stage you’re hoping somebody steps up and Timmy has that ability. He did tonight.

There is a very likely chance Lincecum could start Game 2 for the Giants, as he would have a total of four days off after only pitching a total of 6.1 innings in the entire NLDS series.

Then again, Ryan Vogelsong is also available. Vogelsong has not pitched since Tuesday’s Game 3, and he would have a total of six days off between starts.

Although Lincecum is available and was pitching impressively in relief in the NLDS, we should be seeing Vogelsong on six days rest in Game 2. With Game 3 taken care of with Cain, that would leave Lincecum to lay claim to Game 4, a start that would better suit him at home with the pitcher’s ballpark—and a crowd that was very much behind him out of the bullpen in the NLDS.

Game 5 starts the cycle once again with Bumgarner, but expect Vogelsong in Game 6 only if the Giants lead the series. If the Giants trail 3-2 in the series, then Cain will be called upon on three days rest to try to force a Game 7.

That would leave either Vogelsong (on six days rest) or Lincecum (depending on how he throws in Game 4, on three days rest) to start Game 7.

One decision to watch would be if the Giants include Barry Zito on the NLCS roster.

It is obvious at this point the Giants will be going with a four-man starting rotation that will exclude Zito in the NLCS. He cannot come out of the bullpen for several reasons, and there may not be a reason to carry him on the roster at all, with an addition of another arm in the bullpen being something Bochy would love to have.

It is a roster decision Bochy and his staff will ultimately have to make, but there is a possibility Zito could start either Game 6 or 7 if the team is desperate and either Vogelsong or Lincecum have had rough starts earlier in the series.

Follow me on Twitter @ScottSemmler22

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