SAN FRANCISCO — In the darkest times, the Giants turn to, “We’ve been here before.”
As the second half spun out of control, they found calmness in the fact that Madison Bumgarner would throw a Wild Card game, and it ultimately worked out. Now down 0-2 to the Cubs in the NLDS, they are pulling confidence from a series from four years ago, a similar deficit that was overcome on the road in Cincinnati.
This time, the Giants are returning home. They have Bumgarner lined up for the first winner-take-all game, followed by Matt Moore and Johnny Cueto. Bumgarner and Cueto were on different sides of that 2012 turnaround. Despite the current situation, it’s not something that has come up often since a 5-2 loss Saturday night.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk because everybody knows what kind of spot we’re in,” Bumgarner said. “The only thing we can do is come in and win tomorrow. That’s it. Win or go home.”
Bruce Bochy thinks that’s the best type of situation for his club. The Giants have repeatedly shown that they pull their best when the chips are down, and despite the second half slide, Bochy took confidence into the postseason because the Giants won four straight the final week when they absolutely had to. It was the only four-game winning streak after the All-Star break. The Giants had just two three-game runs during that time, and they’ll now need one against the best team in baseball. Otherwise, it’s time for the golf course.
Buster Posey, a key figure in that 2012 comeback, said the key to doing it again is to “compartmentalize as much as you can.”
“There’s no need to look further than Monday,” Posey said. “We’ve been able to do that. We caught a break in that Game 3 at Cincinnati. Hopefully, maybe we’ll catch another break and see what happens.”
The break four years ago came when Scott Rolen, a third baseman with sure hands, bobbled a Joaquin Arias grounder in extra innings. Before that game, Hunter Pence gave his famous speech. Bochy spoke to the team, too, but he said he’s not sure if he’ll pull a motivational tactic out of the book Monday afternoon.
“I kind of try to read, try to get the feel, the pulse of the club and where we’re at,” Bochy said. “We have had meetings in the postseason, going back to Cincinnati. We had a couple meetings there when we got in that situation.
“Now, this club has a history -- that’s what you like about what’s going on now -- of finding a way to win that game they had to win and moving on. That experience, that’s so vital to draw on. If you don’t have that, they may not have that belief that you can do it. Well, they know that they have done it.”
--- Bochy said Eduardo Nuñez could be ready to start as soon as Game 4, if the Giants extend the series. He is apparently feeling much better.
--- Javy Baez had an interesting Game 2, showing the highs and lows of a budding superstar. He was good defensively, and the read he got on Kyle Hendricks’ single was one of the best you’ll ever see. Joe Maddon said of Baez's instincts, “Either you’ve got it or you don’t. Either you come with the bells and whistles or you don’t.”
Baez also showed the swagger that has gotten him into trouble. In Game 1, he very nearly bat-flipped a deep out. In Game 2, he was thrown out at second after strutting out of the box on another smash to left. Maddon said he didn’t need to have a conversation with Baez.
“I gave him a fist bump and looked him in the eye,” Maddon said. “He knew what that was all about. Like all of us, we know when we screw up.” Maddon didn’t seem bothered that the Giants were bothered. “The pitch inside from (Hunter) Strickland probably had a little bit of a post-it on it,” he said.
--- There has been a lot of talk over the last month about the 0-for-62 (now 0-for-64) record when the Giants trail heading into the ninth. On the flip side, the Cubs are 8-53 when trailing after eight innings. They went 92-1 in the regular season when leading after eight innings. The Giants went 71-9 when leading after eight.
--- After the first round of BP, players always make one (usually lazy) trip around the bases to get loose. Munenori Kawasaki, a Hall-of-Fame clubhouse character, is the first player I’ve seen slide into bases during BP.
--- Only four or five Giants took the field for the afternoon workout. It appeared Conor Gillaspie, the grinder, was the only one to hit.