By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
The San Francisco Giants pulled out a Game 3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on their home field proving that this team is not ready to start the offseason.
Though improbable, can this team, down 1-2 in the best-of-five National League Division Series, come back to win it?
With their win over the Reds, a NL team tied with the best home record during the regular series, the Giants proved they have that something that can make it happen.
1. Starting pitching
Something has to give. The past two games highlighted San Francisco’s current shortcomings, revealing the dire need for the pitching and offense to lead the charge. In Game 3, Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong took the reigns and put in a performance that served as a reminder of the team and his own resiliency.
Over and over, this starting rotation has been compared to the beasts of 2010. But this is not 2010. What they have now is a rotation that is capable, but has not been consistent. Vogelsong, the one starter not on the 2010 team, showed the nation a spark of a stellar rotation.
“He just threw the ball really well to both sides of the plate and it started with his fastball,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said of Vogelsong’s performance. “He was able to run it in on the righties’ hands, sink it the to the lefties, threw some off‑speed pitches behind in the count I think to keep him off the heater a little bit and I’m happy for him, he did a nice job.”
Even with such a great outing for Vogelsong, he recognized what’s next up for this team—a Game 4 start from Barry Zito. Surprising to some, Zito has put up numbers for the team that pushed them into the postseason and earned him the start—even above fellow Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum.
“I’m just happy Barry’s going to have a chance to pitch tomorrow. I know he was off the 2010 postseason roster, and we wouldn’t be here without Barry, the way he threw the ball this year,” Vogelsong said after Game 3. “So, I’m really happy, first of all that we pulled it out to stay alive, and second of all that he’s going to get a chance to pitch in the postseason tomorrow. All the confidence in him right now because he’s been throwing the ball great for a while, so hopefully we get to see another great one from him tomorrow.”
Another great one from Zito is what the team needs—and can get—to even up this series.
2. Bullpen success
Once Vogelsong exited the game, it was up to the bullpen to hold the Reds to just one run. In Game 1, the ‘pen allowed only one run in the loss, but in Game 2 they stumbled and allowed five runs to cross the plate. With a tied game, the bullpen came in and pitched five scoreless innings to help the team win in extra inning fashion.
With this type of contribution from the relief pitchers, the chances the Giants have to hold the Reds’ offense off as the fight for the series win increases and the game intensifies.
“Really both of them, [Jeremy] Affeldt and [Sergio] Romo, even though they went two innings they were fairly efficient, so we’re in the same mode tomorrow,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about the bullpen use for Game 4. “It might limit them a little bit but I think they’re going to be good to go, we just had a day off yesterday and every day we check on them and they’ll let us know, but my guess is they’re going to say they’re fine. If we have to push them a little bit, we will.”
With Lincecum in the bullpen, the chances of Cincinnati to score decreases. The Freak’s scoreless two-inning appearance in relief in Game 2 showed how commanding the bullpen can be when the right combination is used.
3. The will to fight for each other
It’s no secret. This offense in struggling. In three games, San Francisco has managed to plate four runs on 12 hits. They are 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Frightening stats, but step away from the numbers and find a team that is willing to “scratch and claw” their way to a win.
Prior to Game 3, outfielder Hunter Pence brought the team together to hype his teammates up toward a win. Third base coach Tim Flannery shared Pence’s words on his band’s Facebook page:
“Get in here, everyone get in here. Look into each other eyes. Now! Look into each other’s eyes, I want one more day with you. It’s the most fun, the best team I have ever been on and no matter what happens we must not give in. We owe it to each other. Play for each other. I need one more day with you guys, I need to see what Ryan Theriot will wear tomorrow, I want to play defense behind Ryan Vogelsong because he’s never been to the playoffs. Play for each other not yourself. Win each moment. Win each inning. It’s all we have left.”
Romo shared the outfielder’s sentiments when he explained why San Francisco is successful in these types of nail-biting games.
“These are the type of games we have played all season long. We are a gritty and grinding team. We play for the guy next to us, not for ourselves, the greater good,” Romo said after Game 3. “If this is the example of the will to fight, the will to win, the will to survive, this is the way we have been playing all year long. It’s the ‘balls to the wall’ type scenario. It is what it is.”
What it is is just enough to propel this team to do what may seem unlikely, but then again, this is the indomitable San Francisco Giants. When they play their game with their energy and in their own unique way of doing so, they win and they have fun doing so. With the pitching seemingly back on track and team ready to do what they can to see each man with “San Francisco” emblazoned across his chest succeed, they may actually do it.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.