With a 2-0 lead and their ace taking the mound, the Giants could not find themselves in a better position--except for the unpredictable effects of that 18 inning marathon that ended after midnight DC time. On paper everything lines up for a Giants sweep Monday--but the game ain't played on paper.
Here are the cautions: the Giants sleep two nights in their own beds. They are home, and prey to everybody who wants them to supply tickets, etc. They may show up at the ballpark relaxed and loose, or they could find themselves flat. The Nats on the other hand will likely be wired. They've already shown themselves to be a tightly wound team, and that's hurt them, but the energy of desperation could help them Monday.
The October cold and wind kept balls hit to left field in the ballpark in Washington. Such will not be the case by the Bay. Left field fences are far, but not that far. With a left-hander on the mound, look for the Nats righties to swing for the big flies. They will probably take those swings early, before Bumgarner gets settled into the game.
But if the third game isn't a done deal, how about the series? The Giants have had really bad stretches at home this year, so losing two games in a row is not unthinkable. And then there's the pitching rotation. Petit might well have been the starter for the fourth game, but he pitched a full game in relief--80 pitches--on Saturday (and got the win, after Tim Hudson's heroic 8 innings, giving up a single run.) Does Bochy go with Peavy on three days rest? If not, who? Vogelsong is back on the Giants roster, so he's a possibility. Not a good year but he's been successful in the postseason.
I'm thinking Bochy held Lincecum out of Saturday's epic partly to make him available to start Tuesday, or be available for long relief, especially after he inserted Petit. If the Nats manage to win both SF games, the Giants will have Hudson (or Peavy if he's isn't tapped for 4) available for the 5th and deciding game.
It may well not come to that but even though the pressure is obviously on the Nats, there's some on the Giants, too. Their best possible outcome is to win tomorrow, and rest everybody for the next series.
A few more notes on the epic 2-1 game Saturday. Among Bochy's brilliant moves was to choose Petit in relief rather than Lincecum. In doing so he may have sacrificed his fourth game starter. Petit, who left relief pitching behind to become a starter late in the season, seemed somewhat unprepared when called upon. But after a shaky first inning he settled into the game and was lights out. He gave up one hit and struck out seven in an 80 pitch, 6 inning performance. And of course he gave up no runs--when for six innings the first Nats run scored would give them the victory, right then and there. Bochy went with the pitcher he thought was the better one for this game, without thinking too far ahead.
Both teams virtually depleted their bullpens. (Sandoval said (or kidded) later that he was ready to pitch if needed.) But by using Petit, Bochy required fewer innings from his regular relievers. That may pay off Monday.
Both Baltimore and Kansas City swept the more favored American League teams of Detroit and Los Angeles on Sunday. An omen for the Giants? Well, maybe, but for now it means the game will start a little later in the afternoon for TV.