With only three games remaining in the regular season, the San Francisco Giants wont know their National League Division Series foe for at least two more days as the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals currently sit tied for the National League’s one seed – the Giants playing the “loser” of that battle.
The Reds and Giants played each other relatively close this season, Cincinnati squeaking by with a 4-3 season series win – scoring 28 runs in the seven contests, the Giants plating 21. The first series, which took place in late April was mostly Reds as they took the first two games and nearly the third before a three-run homer from Angel Pagan in the top of the 9th prevented a Reds sweep. The Reds then made their way West at the end of June and split with the Giants in a four game set, with both the third and fourth games only being decided by a lone run – each team winning a game in the said one-run scenario.
So how do the Reds stack up against the Giants offensively? Probably not as well as many would expect, given the Reds offensive juggernaut. The Reds hold a .254 average against the Giants in their seven contests this season, despite the 28 runs. However, with eight round trippers in just seven games, the Reds weapon against the orange and black was the long ball – five of their eight bombs coming in the seasons first three contests at Great American Ballpark. The Reds averaged a homerun every 29 at-bat’s versus the Giants this season (the fourth best rate behind Washington, Atlanta and St. Louis) so if the Giants do face the Reds in the NLDS, keeping the Reds in the ballpark is a must.
On the flip side, the Giants weren’t much better offensively against the Reds as they only manged a .258 average in the season series, though their .321 OBP% ranked top five against Cincinnati this season. One glaring weakness the Giants felt they could exploit against the Reds was on the basepaths as the G-men stole seven bases in their seven contests, the third most against the Reds all season despite only playing them a handful of times. The Giants were also thrown out three times, giving them ten total attempts in those seven games – so while not the most effective, they clearly felt it was an advantage.
Looking at the pitching, the Giants hold a 3.69 ERA against the Reds while Cincinnati put together a stout 2.63 ERA against the Giants – their best against any opponent. Oddly enough, despite the Reds low ERA against the Giants, they did force them to put the ball in play as the Reds only managed 5.9 K/9 rate as opposed to the Giants’ 7.5 K/9 rate against the Reds.
The Reds aren’t as good offensively against right handed starters, would could alter the Giants’ rotation plan. Barry Zito, who tentatively looks to hold the advantage over Ryan Vogelsong in the playoff rotation has a eye popping career 6.10 ERA at Great American Ballpark (which is where he’d pitch, if he did start) – though in fairness he did hold the Reds to one run in six innings earlier this season at the GAB. Still – do you trust Zito in that scenario? Or should I say – do you trust Zito more than Vogelsong? In two starts for the Giants at Great American Ballpark, Vogelsong holds an ERA just above 5.00 – so neither player is a ringing endorsement for a start.
The Giants’ series will open on October 6th with the series off day being the travel day, which is October 8th. The Giants could avoid the Zito/Vogelsong situation assuming they opt to pitch starters on short rest. Matt Cain, who is all but assured of a game one start could pitch in Game 4 on four days rest depending on the Giants’ need – though that’s a situation that will dictate itself as the series plays on.
Neither Washington nor Cincinnati are ideal matchups for the Giants if you’re going off regular season stats, but as we all know – as great as those are to look at – games aren’t played off paper. Both teams, especially the Giants, are vastly different from their early season meetings – the Reds with a fortified bullpen, the Giants with a stronger offense thanks to Hunter Pence and an improved Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford – but one that lacks Melky Cabrera.
And hey – despite what some analysts might say about the potential matchup, I know one Red fan who isn’t looking forward to it – Cincinnati great, Johnny Bench:
5 games left and wild card is wild. I’m all over the standings. 5 games to decide best record as well. Don’t want to go to SF