Things are looking rather bleak for the Giants, regardless of whether or not it's an even year. Down 0-2 to the best team in baseball, the team finds themselves in a big hole. But this is the playoffs, and strange things seem to happen in October.
While we tweeted out from the Giants Farm account that the Giants have come back from an 0-2 deficit in the NLDS against a team that Chapman was closing for in the past, and that is in fact true, these Cubs are a different beast. Their starters are more reliable than the 2012 Reds. Their offense is far superior to the one that the Reds trotted out. Yes, the Giants pulled off that feat by winning three on the road in an odd 2-3 format to accommodate the wild card game, but this season, this matchup, is different.
That isn't to say that all hope is lost. Especially not when the Giants have Madison Bumgarner set to take the ball in Game 3 on Monday. If San Francisco can pull out a win (which is no guarantee, even with Mad Bum on the mound) against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, then they'd get John Lackey (11-8, 3.35) in Game 4. Lackey's ERA on the road this season was 4.37, which means that there would likely be opportunities to score on him. The Giants would presumably send Matt Moore to the mound in that game, and could stick with that plan and have a quick hook in favor of rookie Ty Blach as he looks to earn his orange and black stripes, or they could go with Johnny Cueto on short rest. Either combination could get the job done, and saving Cueto for a potential Game 5 would be ideal, but there is no use in saving him if that game never comes. Moore's leash would be short if he got the call.
Cueto against Lester in a rematch of Game 1 would be an epic battle, and as we saw on Friday night, could realistically go either way.
For any of this to matter, the bats will have to wake up. It doesn't matter who gets the job done, as long as it gets done. Brandon Belt has been quiet, and is 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts against Arrieta in his career. The only two pitchers on the Cubs staff he has hits against are last night's starter Kyle Hendricks and reliever Hector Rondon.
Angel Pagan could be the key to the offense in Game 3, as he has had the most success against Arrieta in his career, going 5-for-11 with a double. Is that enough to move him into the leadoff spot, or do you want him hitting down in the order to drive in runs? It's a tough call. The five hole may suit him best, as he'll have more opportunities to be driven in, and drive in runs from there, opposed to following the pitcher's spot the second and third time through the order.
Eduardo Nunez is no guarantee to play on Monday, but he is 3-for-8 against Arrieta while Conor Gillaspie is 2-for-6. Either would be a decent choice, but with Nunez's legs not at a hundred percent, he could become a defensive liability at third.
In yesterday's post, I said that the Giants would have to be more aggressive if they want to win this series, and while there weren't necessarily opportunities to be aggressive on the bases last night, the blooper that dropped at the feet of Denard Span that scored two could have been the difference in the game. A three run deficit is much harder to overcome than a one run deficit. I also argued that Gorkys Hernandez may have been the better fit in the lineup because he will at least provide solid defense. While it's far from a guarantee that Hernandez reaches the bloop to make the catch, he may have had a better shot at diving for the ball. Heck, either of them could have dove for the ball. Best case scenario is you save two runs from scoring. Worst case, they score anyway. Span was in for his splits against right-handers, but didn't have an impact offensively.
Through two games the Cubs are out-Giants-ing the Giants. They're getting solid starts, bullpen work and defense and they're showing that they're the better team. With Bumgarner on the mound, the Giants still have a shot at this thing, but if they make it past Game 3, then it will be time to play with a little more aggression when necessary to keep the Cubs at bay.
What do you think the Giants need to do? Let us know in the comments below!