By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
It’s not a rare occurrence to hear comparisons between the 2010 and 2012 San Francisco Giants. Both teams possess this thing, this, dare I say, magic, but the 2012 team is different despite the few familiar faces.
As the Giants prepare to face the National League Central champion Cincinnati Reds, they do so without the certainty of a noticeably dominant starting rotation. In 2010, San Francisco featured 2012 Giants pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner on their NLDS roster, while Barry Zito did not make the cut. This postseason, all four are featured on the NLDS roster with the addition of Ryan Vogelsong, but the roles they play are quite different.
Lincecum was the ace in 2010, but this year it’s Cain who will take Game 1 and Bumgarner in for Game 2. As for the remaining games of the series, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has yet to reveal his plans, keeping in mind that the Lincecum, Zito, and Vogelsong may be used in relief if necessary.
Definitely not 2010.
This 2012 team has what it takes, but their success does not hinge on the supremacy of the starting rotation; the team’s success was shared between the pitching, when on, and San Francisco’s offensive performance. There was no expected lamenting of the lack of run support for Cain—or any other pitcher for that matter, no constant “torture” of one-run games, no dwelling in the middle of the NL offensive rankings. The 2012 Giants found a way to score runs and, in turn, win—even with an unsteady rotation—all resulting in the team clinching the NL West on September 22.
“I’ll be honest. I like this clinching early thing,” Bochy said. “It does give you a chance to relax a little bit and set things up, give guys days if you need it. There is talk about, well, you want to keep the momentum going. It’s better to clinch the last couple of days because you have to keep going hard, but I tell you what, anything can happen when you do that.”
Clinching early gave the team time to mentally and physically prepare for the postseason in a way that they weren’t able to in 2010.
“This is different because in 2010 it was up to the last day and it was like, we’re in the playoffs. And now we have had a week and a half to prepare for what we were going to play,” Cain said.
“I think it was good for us as well because we had the guys able to get rest in and able to prepare and think about what we needed to do against the team that we were going to play.”
As the Giants face the Reds, they know they will face strong pitching and a potentially potent offense. Cincinnati’s bats have struggled in the last month of the season (.230 team BA), but all it takes is one spark to ignite the likes of Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, or Jay Bruce. As the Reds bats struggled, the Giants flourished, posting a .297 team BA.
“They’re solid, great starting rotation, great bullpen, and outstanding lineup,” Bochy said. “It’s a great match up, I think, and should be a good series. I know both teams are looking forward to it, again, you’ve worked hard to get to this and we’re excited about being here.”
Clearly, any team that aims to go deep into the postseason needs to have balance between pitching, offense, and defense; if one falters, another must be able to make up for the deficit. That has been the San Francisco Giants. Just when a game seemed to slip out of the team’s hands, something happens that pulls the Giants out of the loss column into to the win. In the last 60 games, they have not lost more than two in a row and have not lost a series since the All-Star Break.
As the NLDS begins tomorrow, it looks to be a great time for the San Francisco Giants. As the Reds quietly struggle, the Giants are making wins happen. With the best-of-five series starting in San Francisco, the path leading to the next round looks paved with the magic of the orange and black.
Game 1 of the NLDS is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 6:30 PM with Cain on the mound for the Giants facing Johnny Cueto of the Reds.
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Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.