10/08/12 9:15 PM ET
Giants need to follow 2012 script in NLDS
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Just another indication it's not in 2010 anymore. Hardly anything is the same.Two years earlier, the Giants clinched on the last game of the season after months of "Torture" and got hotter as the postseason went along. This time, they overcame obstacles of injuries and suspensions to clinch the NL West title with 10 games to go, and they've run into a Reds team that played extremely well in the first two games of the NLDS. That's the nature of the postseason, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said as the team arrived in Cincinnati on Monday to prepare for Tuesday's 5:30 p.m. ET game. "Yeah, and you know that going in," Bochy said. "You work so hard to get to the playoffs and you understand, especially in the first series, best out of five, it can become a little bit of a crapshoot, when you catch a team, how well they throw, balls falling in, base hits, things like that and they have played very well." "We haven't pitched as well as we have all year and they have done a petty good job on our pitching, and that's the unfortunate part of a short series, there is not a big margin of error." It's just a different year, a different experience than the magical ride in 2010, and it will be even if the Giants do pull a stunner. Granted, some of the scenarios are similar, just with different characters. In 2010, it was Barry Zito and Pablo Sandoval struggling and left out of their normal roles. In 2012, it's Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum in the bullpen and 2010's red-thonged hitting hero Aubrey Huff a pinch-hitter -- while Sandoval is batting third and Zito is pegged to pitch Game 4 if the Giants force it. In a larger sense, this is part of the new reality for the Giants. That World Series title -- the team's first since it moved to San Francisco in 1958 -- changed everything. With that as a backdrop, the 2012 team had higher expectations on it, which is how the Giants like it, says team president and CEO Larry Baer. "This wasn't a sneak-up-on-you year for us in any way," Baer said. "In 2010, it snuck up on us a little more the way the team performed. Now there's definitely some big expectations -- and that's good, that's fine, we want that. "Now people are expecting you to go deep into the playoffs, and we expect that from ourselves, and that's different than 2010." For the Giants to go deep in the playoffs again, this different band of orange-clad lads would have to return -- and immediately -- to the things that got them there in 2012: strong starting pitching, a lineup that as Bochy likes to say "keeps the line moving," and a bullpen that has performed so well as a cohesive and flexible group down the stretch. The starting pitching simply hasn't been near the 2010 gold standard in the first two games, with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner only lasting 4 1/3. In 2010, Lincecum started off the playoffs with a 14-strikeout shutout and Cain was strong into the seventh in an extra-innings Game 2 loss, and the Giants rolled onward with the momentum provided by those starts. The lineup, all would agree, is much deeper and more balanced than it was two years ago, but that aspect hasn't yet emerged in the Division Series. This team has more speed than the 2010 team (which had virtually none), and has been effective at scoring runs from the top down. But Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro have yet to get the ball rolling at the top of the lineup, going a combined 1-for-17, so Pagan's speed and the batting prowess Scutaro brings has been missing -- that 20-game hitting streak to end the season seems so long ago now. And, while playing from behind has obvious consequences, the bullpen has yet to get into a groove like it was at the end of the season. It certainly isn't as cohesive so far as it turned out to be in 2010, when other than a few hiccups the relief corps was excellent. This is 2012. Cody Ross isn't there to help, nor is Edgar Renteria. And, of course, Brian Wilson's beard might be longer two years later but he's unavailable, too. If they are to do it, the 2012 Giants are going to have to extend their postseason run their own way. While many remain from that team, 2010 is long in the past, and this is a different cast of characters facing a stern challenge. But that's how it always is, because time moves on, expectations and situations change. "My general feeling is it's hard to freeze time in sports. Each year is a little chapter, a little movie unto itself," Baer said. For this movie to have a happy ending for the Giants, they'll have to get back to their 2012 script without delay.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.