10/08/12 8:48 PM ET
Where do things stand with Giants, Reds?
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
After all, they're safely back in Cincinnati with an opportunity to play three times in front of their home fans, while intending -- or at least hoping -- to play just once.
Prior to Game 1 at AT&T Park on Saturday, manager Dusty Baker was asked about the 2-3 format, a one-year-only format necessitated after the late addition of the second Wild Card.
Baker's response: What home-field advantage?
While it's likely Baker still doesn't like the format, which has the higher-seeded team starting the series on the road, it's just as probable Baker won't be grumbling about it for however long the Division Series continues.
That's because this thing may just be over on Tuesday. The Reds return to Great American Ball Park with a commanding 2-0 lead over the Giants in the best-of-five series, and they'll be playing in front of their home fans in a venue where they netted 50 of their 97 wins this season.
The Reds have outperformed the Giants in every way possible. They've pitched better. They've played better defense. And they could have cut their offensive production in half and still outhit the opposition.
So where do things stand now?
The Reds need one more win to advance to the NL Championship Series for the first time since 1995, and while they're doing their best to not get ahead of themselves, they do have a few things working for them. First, history. No NL team has blown a 2-0 lead in the Division Series since the extra round was added in '95. Four teams, all from the American League, have rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win the series: the 1995 Mariners, '99 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees and '03 Red Sox. Clubs are 21-0 after being up 2-0 in the NLDS.
You often hear general managers and managers talk about having too many players to choose from, referring to those decisions as "good problems" to have. The Reds are experiencing that now. They lost their ace, Johnny Cueto, after eight pitches in Game 1 to back spasms. They were hoping to have him ready to go for Game 3, but with so many questions remaining about Cueto's health status, the Reds will instead to turn to a guy -- Homer Bailey -- who, oh, threw a no-hitter less than two weeks ago.
Most teams would love to have a pool of multiple aces to pick from. And most do not have that luxury. The Reds, however, are not most teams. They have options -- also referred to in this game as "good problems to have."
The Reds have three key elements working in their favor: pitching, pitching and pitching. A potentially catastrophic situation (even Brandon Phillips said to himself, "We're done") was averted when Mat Latos stepped up in a big way in place of the injured Cueto during Game 1, and Bronson Arroyo -- the elder statesman of a still-young Reds team -- dominated the Giants to cap a landslide 9-0 win in Game 2.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the diamond, the Giants have conceded nothing. But if they're going to win, they're going to have to start hitting, a lot. So far, their bats have been uncharacteristically silent. They've scored two runs: one on a home run and one on a wild pitch. That's not going to cut it.
You'll hear teams that are down in a short series say things like, "We've won three in a row plenty of times. We can do it this time, too." That is true. In fact, the Giants put together three-game winning streaks four times this year. The postseason is different, of course, considering every game played pits one exemplary team against another. This makes San Francisco's upcoming agenda a tough one.
Two playoff teams in two very different situations. Here's one thing they have in common: All are in agreement that this series has hardly been decided.
Said Arroyo: "We've got to calm it down a little bit and stay the task at hand, because we haven't won anything and baseball is a crazy game."
Said Giants first baseman Brandon Belt: "We knew this scenario could happen. Now it's up to us to go out and win Tuesday."