Giants, Braves set for encore of close opener
Tightly contested Game 1 sets tone for Cain-Hanson duel
SAN FRANCISCO -- Now for the encore. Game 1 of the Braves-Giants National League Division Series, the last series to start this year, proved to be worth the wait. If the two clubs can top it with a more exciting, taut game, we're all in for quite a series.
This much is sure: Game 2 features another excellent pitching matchup. Matt Cain and Tommy Hanson are two of the more exciting young right-handers in the NL. Add in the fact that AT&T Park is not an especially fun place to hit, and it could be another long night for hitters. The game gets rolling at 9:30 p.m. ET and will be carried on TBS.
As Game 2 approaches, here are a few storylines to keep an eye on:
A little help? If you liked Thursday's 1-0 game, there's a good chance you'll enjoy Friday's tilt as well. History indicates that it will be more of the same. Neither starting pitcher has gotten much help from his offense. Out of 45 NL pitchers who had enough innings to qualify for the ERA title in 2010, Cain ranked 36th in run support.
Hanson got some aid from his offense early in the year, but in the second half, it dried up. The Braves scored 46 runs combined in his final 16 starts.
Even before Thursday, most people seemed to be expecting a low-scoring series between the Braves and Giants. These guys are plenty used to that already.
Oh no, not you again: Adding to the runs-will-be-scarce notion is the fact that neither team has hit the other pitcher at all. Matchup numbers can be decidedly misleading, but in bulk, they would seem to have at least a little value. And in bulk, the numbers tell a consistent story.
The players on the Giants' active playoff roster are a combined 6-for-46 (.130) with 17 strikeouts against Hanson. That covers two starts, which isn't much, but it's something.
It's more pronounced in the other direction. Players on the Braves' active playoff roster are a combined 17-for-89 (.191) with one home run and 21 strikeouts against Cain. Derrek Lee has the home run.
Reading too much into small sample sizes can be a bad move, but don't be surprised if Friday brings another purists' delight.
This is the real big one: It's a common refrain: Game 1 of a five-game series is everything. Well, it's not. Game 2 is even more predictive.
Since the move to three divisions and the Wild Card, teams winning the opening game of a series have gone on to win the series 43 out of 60 times. That's 71.7 percent, and it's compelling. But Game 2 is an even better predictor. The team that wins Game 2 has gone on to win 47 out of 60 series -- 78.3 percent.
To break it down a little further, let's say the Braves win Game 2, earning a split. That's happened 19 times in the Wild Card era. In those series, the team that won Game 2 after losing Game 1 has gone on to win the series 11 times.
Two more debuts: So far this postseason, experience hasn't seemed to matter much at all. One pitcher after another has turned in a brilliant showing in his career playoff debut, from Roy Halladay to C.J. Wilson to Tim Lincecum. We'll see two more debuts on Friday, as Cain and Hanson will both be starting in the playoffs for the first time.
Cain in particular had a pretty good example set for him.
"I always watch Tim, especially when he throws the same series that I do," Cain said. "I always try to feed off what he does against some guys. So we throw different in a lot of ways, but then again, we have some similarities. So I'll try to cheat off him and see what goes on."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.