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SAN FRANCISCO -- Due to the timing of the trade that sent him from Philadelphia to San Francisco and sheer coincidence, Hunter Pence has not played against the Cincinnati Reds this season.
"They don't know what's coming," the Giants right fielder said.
Pence was joking, of course. But the Giants know what's coming from the power-hitting, power-pitching Reds in the Division Series. The National League West champions realize they must operate at peak efficiency to contend with Cincinnati, which defeated them in four of seven regular-season games.
Asked which of the Reds' tendencies concerned him most, manager Bruce Bochy essentially said, "Everything." His actually response was, "Just how well-balanced they are. They execute well and catch the ball. They're not a team that's going to beat themselves."
Matt Cain would second Bochy's remarks. Cain, San Francisco's starter for Saturday's Game 1, absorbed two of his five defeats at the hands of the Reds, who homered off him four times in that pair of games. Though the Reds ranked third in the league in home runs, Cain described their offense as multifaceted.
"A lot of those guys can run," Cain said. "[Brandon] Phillips can run. [Zack] Cozart will run. Obviously [Drew] Stubbs and even [Joey] Votto will run if you don't pay attention. It's not necessarily just those guys hitting the ball deep. Those guys can move on the basepaths as well and take extra bases when they can."
Winning the first two games at home under the Division Series' best-of-five format would be a priority for any team, but that's particularly essential for the Giants. San Francisco has lost seven of its last eight games at Cincinnati dating back to 2010. It took a ninth-inning, three-run homer by Angel Pagan to seal that lone victory, a 6-5 decision on April 26 this year.
The most formidable Red the Giants will face is right-hander Mat Latos, Cincinnati's scheduled Game 3 starter and a San Francisco nemesis dating back to his 2009-11 tenure with the Padres. Latos' ordinary-looking 4-3 career record against the Giants masks gaudier statistics he has accumulated at their expense, including a 2.19 ERA, a .201 opponents' batting average and a 0.892 WHIP (average walks and hits per inning).
In 11 career starts against the Giants, Latos has worked seven or more innings six times and at least six innings on 10 occasions. He has allowed them more than three earned runs just once and has limited them to one or zero runs in six outings. He was dominant in his pair of complete games against the Giants, throwing a one-hit shutout on May 13, 2010, and a two-hitter on June 30 of this year. Both were at AT&T Park.
The Giants received a Latos-like performance on June 28 from left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who one-hit the Reds in a 5-0 victory at San Francisco. Bumgarner insisted that he won't allow that pitching gem to taint his approach.
"I try not to put too much into that, because anything can happen. That was just one game," Bumgarner said. "Obviously, it does help your confidence, but you have to make sure you don't hold back because you did well one time."