Magic, skill, or luck? Destiny, a fluke, or divine intervention? There are quite a few played out terms that can be used to describe the result of the National League Divisional Series between the Reds and the Giants. I’ll go with “historic comeback of epic proportions.”
The Reds took the first two games of the series in San Francisco. Not only did the Reds win the two games and take a 2-0 advantage going back home to Cincinnati for 3 games, they won handily. The Giants only managed to scrape across two runs in the two games. The Giants left San Francisco more disheveled than Brian Wilson’s beard. Their offense was so bad that the Reds’ starters looked like Cy Young-caliber pitchers.
Looking battered, the Giants limped into Cincinnati needing to sweep the three games to make it to the National League Championship Series. Game 3 looked no different than the others for the Giants’ offense. In a great pitching duel between Ryan Vogelsong and Homer Bailey, the Giants managed just three hits and struck out 16 times. But they managed to win in the 10th inning when Scott Rolen mishandled a grounder from Joaquin Arias. Arias beat out the throw and Buster Posey scored the go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) run. It was at that point, in the 10th inning of game three down 2-0 with three games on the road, that the tide of the series turned.
The Giants’ bats came alive in Game 4, winning 8-3 and forcing Game 5. Two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, relegated to the bullpen for this series, was tremendous in relief of starter Barry Zito. He was on point, going 4.2 innings, allowing just two hits, one run, no walks, and six strikeouts. His stellar performance held the lead that the Giants would gain while preserving manager Bruce Bochy’s bullpen for Game 5. Yes, the Giants had forced game 5 and were on the edge of becoming the first National League team to win a division series after falling behind 2-0 and having the play the next three games on the road.
Game 5 shaped up to be a great pitcher’s duel: Giants ace Matt Cain against their ‘nemesis’ Mat Latos, formerly of the San Diego Padres. Cain would win this battle, in large part to Buster Posey’s grand slam off Latos in the 5th inning. Cain would only last 5.2 innings, allowing 3 runs. But Bochy’s bullpen would come up huge yet again. George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo would pitch the final 3.1 innings, forcing the Reds to strand the tying run on-base or at the plate on multiple occasions.
Many people doubt Bruce Bochy’s ability as a manager, but there was no denying Bochy was magisterial in this series, especially with his bullpen. The Giants pulled off the improbable, catching the right breaks, (Rolen’s error and Johnny Cueto’s injury) catching fire offensively, (4 runs in the first three games, 14 runs in the final two) making timely defensive gems, (Angel Pagan and Brandon Crawford in Game 5) and pitching exceptionally (even if not up to normal expectations).
The combination of these things makes for a deadly team in the playoffs. In 2010, the Giants caught all the breaks and were hot en route to a title. The Giants look like they’re back on that 2010 formula, and we all know how that ended. Maybe it was Divine Intervention. Maybe it was Hunter Pence's rally speeches. Whatever it was, Market Street had better get ready, it might need to host another Championship parade sooner rather than later.
Stats obtained from ESPN.com