Who here saw this coming? Ok, the question was not who HOPED this would happen. Who actually thought this was going to happen? Let me clarify... who actually thought this was going to happen after the Giants fell behind 0-2 in the NLDS after losing two straight AT HOME and after the Giants bats looked about as hot as Antartica? You, in the back, really?
The Giants are looking to advance to the NLCS for the 2nd time in 3 years with a victory over the Reds tomorrow morning (for us pacific timers). It's not going to be easy. But this is Giants baseball and it's never supposed to be easy. In fact, winning the division so easily felt kinda sorta odd, did it not? It felt almost wrong. No grinding the teeth, no biting the finger nails. Just business like wins that eventually eliminated the Dodgers with about a week left in the season. Well, we knew the torture would have to come at some point. And it took the form of two ugly losses to the Reds at home to open the NLDS.
In my previous entry, I noted the positives I saw after Game 1. Well, those positives were snuffed out by Game 2 which arguably was the worst SF Giants postseason game ever played (yes, there was that infamous Game Six but that game was likely the most heartbreaking, not the worst game ever played).
Game 2 was so atrocious that Giants fans that stuck around for the Croix D'AT&T could only make jokes about the putridness instead of actually crying, which we all pretty much felt like doing after seeing that awfulness.
But then Giants baseball happened. Torture returned. The Giants won a game they had no right winning by squeaking out an undeserved run in the late innings after essentially being no hit by Homer friggin Bailey for the majority of the game. The script was vintage modern Giant baseball. Some small ball, a game (series) changing error, a solid start by Vogels[tr]ong, a clutch 2 inning performance by Jeremy Affeldt (whom I rarely praise), and then the regular back end guys Casilla (who you never want to see anymore in key situations but who did his job), Lopez, and 2 innings by the replacement Fear the Beard closer of the year Sergio Romo. And a crisp, tidy (ha!) 2-1 Giants victory that prevented a Reds sweep.
But not only did the victory prevent the sweep, it sent the Reds into upheaval. The loss of starter Johnny Cueto that this blogger thought would alter the series in Game 1 and Game 3 (positively for the G's) actually didn't wind up being a factor until Game 4 due to Mat Latos stepping up for the Reds in Game 1 and Homer Bailey coming into his own in Game 3.
But Game 4 was a different story. With Cueto unavailable and Dusty Baker not wanting to pitch Latos again on 3 days rest (and feeling under the weather) the Reds moved Cueto off the roster and selected ASU alum Mike Leake to start. Mike Leake is no Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos. And the Giants feasted on him like the #5 starter he pretty much is supposed to be. Angel Pagan, who the Giants desperately needed to get hot, set the tone with a lead off homer. And after a rocky 2+ innings by Barry Zito (man Zeets, we were really rooting for you to do well), the Giants bullpen came in and dominated.
Of course, that bullpen included Tim Lincecum. And gosh darn if Big Time Timmy Jim didn't look reinvigorated and, well let's just say it, he's BACK. Tim Lincecum is back. He may not be throwing 96 MPH but this banishment to the bullpen has awoken The Freak. The Giants rolled to an 8-3 win and now the stage is set for Game 5.
Mat Latos. Matt Cain. Notorious Giant killer/prick vs nice guy understated ace.
Can Matt Cain become Big Game Cain? He hasn't fared well against the Reds in 2012 in the regular season or the postseason. But in Game 5, anything goes. I wouldn't be surprised to see Boch have Cain start, bring in Vogelsong, then Bumgarner, Billy Swift, John Burkett, Mike Jackson, and god bless him, Rod Beck's ghost.
In a series that I had pegged as a 5 gamer prior to an 0-2 hole, I was relieved after Game 3 that the Giants weren't going to be embarrassed by a sweep. Now, the fifth game is here. And the Giants have a chance to go back to the NLCS and make history while they're at it. No NL team in the NLDS has ever come back from 0-2 especially in this wacky 2-3 format but the Giants have a shot.
Besides, Bochy vs Baker? I hold no ill will toward Dusty but Bruce's head is bigger for a reason. He's a better manager. It's science.