Five Keys to San Francisco Giants Winning Game 3 of NLDS vs. Cincinnati Reds
San Francisco Giants: Five Keys to NLDS Game 3 Success
Reloading for Game 3 will be a hefty feat, to say the least. In the past two games, the Reds have held the Giants offense to a mere two runs: a Buster Posey solo home run and a wild pitch by Aroldis Chapman that scored Joaquin Arias. Now they ready for Homer Bailey, one of the hottest pitchers in the past month (3-1, 1.99 ERA), which includes a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates and 13 consecutive scoreless innings.
Still, the Giants maintained their composure after Sunday’s loss.
“I think more than anything, they were relaxing back there, doing what they normally do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Some guys were playing cards. We did have some family on the trip and they were watching movies. There was really nothing any different than any trip we take. So I can’t say I noticed anything different about it.”
Fortunately, San Francisco still has the right ingredients to overcome a two-game deficit. Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong will take to the mound on Tuesday night to anchor the Giants defense (which has let up 14 runs in two games). Though his second-half totals don’t amount to anything (including a 6.46 ERA in September), he has righted the ship in his last three starts (one ER in past 17 innings).
The fast finish was all manager Bruce Bochy needed to slot him in at the No. 3 starting pitcher and help carry the Giants to a game four rematch in Cincinnati. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here are the Giants five keys to Game 3.
Vogelsong Continues Stretch of Quality Starts
Ryan Vogelsong will have the Giants season weighing on his shoulders Tuesday night. The 35-year-old righty got the starting nod (first career playoff start) over Barry Zito and two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, a decision Giants fans might not have seen coming at the outset of the season.
But Vogelsong is ready for the lofty task.
“The cliche is to say it’s just another game, but I feel ‘just another game’ doesn’t count when you’re talking about the postseason,” said Vogelsong. “And when you’re talking about being down 0-2 in a series, you can’t say it’s just another game, either.”
Vogelsong’s 2012 campaign is a tale of two halves. In the first three months of the season, he was arguably the best pitcher on the team’s staff. Yet, his mid-August slump stretched through seven games and down he went on the post-season depth chart. However, the veteran slinger rebounded well in his last three starts which culminated in a commanding seven-inning outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers, only allowing one run (unearned) with seven strikeouts. With the win, he registered his 22nd quality start of the year, which ranks first among the Giants starting pitchers.
It will take another strong outing from him if the Giants have any hope of recovering from a two-game deficit.
Get Runners in Scoring Position for Buster Posey
Though the Giants find themselves between a rock and a hard place in the pivotal game 3 of the NLDS, they still have the league’s best player in Buster Posey.
San Francisco has lacked any sense of on-base percentage throughout this series and haven't produced when with the few opportunities they have had with runners in scoring position (0-for-2). If they have any shot of winning game 3, the Giants will need to put bodies at second and third for Posey. The All-Star catcher is a deadly .375 with runners in scoring position this season -- which ranks in the top 10 of MLB players.
If the Giants front line can string a few hits in front of Posey, the 25-year-old prodigy can pit this series within reach. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board next year.
Lincecum’s Stifling Performance as Relief Pitcher Continues
While Lincecum remains out of the postseason starting rotation, it doesn’t mean he’s lost for good. The two-time Cy Young award winner provided some much needed support in the bullpen in two innings of scoreless work in Sunday’s 9-0 romp.
Lincecum remained unfazed by his new role on the team.
“Outside of (a little notice), it wasn’t anything abnormal out there on the field,” Lincecum said after Sunday’s relief outing. “I didn’t feel any different other than I was starting than coming in the middle of the game instead of the beginning.”
Lincecum was definitely on-point in Sunday’s relief work. He set down six of the seven players he faced during the sixth and seventh inning, something that has escaped him this season as a full-time starter. Fortunately, it looks like he’s hit his stride and will develop into the postseason shutdown starter-turned-reliever we all know he has the capability of being.
Contain Brandon Phillips
Though its easier said than done, containing Brandon Phillips (.500/.500/1.000) is an essential part of their must-win game 3.
In game 1 of the NLDS, Phillips became their power source. The veteran second baseman injected life into his team right off the bat, blistering a two-run shot over the left field fence off Matt Cain in the third inning to get the Reds off to a 2-0 advantage. Two at-bats later, he drove in a third run in the ninth inning to give Cincinnati a three run cushion and, consequently, the game.
On Sunday, Phillips continued to power his team behind two doubles and an RBI in the Reds 9-0 game 2 route in the NLDS.
While the Giants may only be two games into the postseason, the team needs to figure out a way to slow Phillips down. His presence at the top of the order gives the Reds a decisive first-punch in a series sure to be decided by an early lead.
Giants Unsung Heroes
The regular season coup of Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval has yet to translate into the post-season.
Thus far, the first three batters have compiled a 3-for-26 batting slump with only one walk to show for it. This isn’t what you’d expect after their phenomenal individual production during the regular season with Pagan averaging .338 OBP, Scutaro .348 and Sandoval .342. Their capability of getting on base and forcing the opposing pitcher to pitch from the stretch are essential in pumping some life into the Giants offense.
If these players can get hot in the elimination game, chances are they’ll keep their on-base percentages on par with their regular season successes. If they can't, Giants fans are in for a long offseason.