With their 8-3 victory on Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants went from barely having a pulse against the Cincinnati Reds to being just nine innings away from eliminating them in the span of less than 48 hours. Now both teams' season comes down to Thursday afternoon, a situation the Reds likely didn't envision after going up 2-0 in San Francisco.
It only took four games, but the Giants offense finally returned and with a passion. Angel Pagan was certainly the MVP as his lead off homer was what the Giants have been looking for all series long, while added on with his RBI double in the fifth. Gregor Blanco made his presence felt with his two-run blast, just his seventh homer in 1,103 career at-bats, while Pablo Sandoval's monster shot down the right field line in the seventh was the icing on the cake of the G-Men's party.
Marco Scutaro is coming around at the plate after starting the series 0-9, going 1-4 with an RBI double. He had a few bobbles in the infield on some tough plays, but is getting hot at the right time as the team looks to stave off the offseason. Hunter Pence is still pressing though as he is now 2-16 in this series, though has been contributing well on defense ((as well as in the clubhouse. ))
Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval went 6 for 11 with two walks, three doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored on Wednesday. They went 4 for 37 (.108) with no runs scored in the first three games of the series.
Pitching wise, Barry Zito was lucky to avoid more damage after loading the bases in both the first and second innings. He needed 76 pitches just to make it 2.2 innings, allowing four walks and four strikeouts along the way. He will be a question Bruce Bochy will have to answer if the Giants make it to the NLCS.
On the other side of the coin, this was the outing Tim Lincecum was looking for. After being left out of the rotation in favor of Zito, Timmy simply took over in relief, tossing 4.1 innings of one-run ball while keeping the Reds to just two hits and six strikeouts.
He's looked to have an extra spark in these playoffs, possibly from being looked over in favor of Zito. But Timmy did an excellent job at saving the bullpen for game five, and was much more the Lincecum that Giants fans had been used to than his 2012 self; a great sign moving forward in this postseason and into the 2013 campaign.
Another thing that can't be overlooked is the great work done by Bruce Bochy. His decisions to start Hector Sanchez and Gregor Blanco paid dividends, while his double-switch with Lincecum and Joaquin Arias in the fourth did too after Arias' leadoff double in the fifth started another Giants rally.
Matt Cain will make his second start of the series on Thursday, looking to improve on his troublesome game one start. The Reds will counter with Mat Latos, who has been ((battling flu like symptoms)) the past few days. Cain struggled with his command in game one, but hopefully will be able to bring in the reigns on Thursday and get the job done. As for Latos, he was solid in relief after Johnny Cueto was injured in game one as his vitriol for the Giants is well documented.
Doesn't get much better than elimination baseball, does it?