CINCINNATI - Game 3 of the National League Division Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants can only be described as a fluke.
The Giants had the right results at the right time throughout, and things just kept bouncing their way, quite literally.
But the Reds’ bats were a no-show, and that reality could be a cause for concern in the next game, or if necessary, two games.
So should Reds fans be worried? Or just write Game 3 off as an isolated incident?
The Reds’ offensive performance in Game 3 was exactly what we did worry about going in to this postseason. Game 2 specifically was a pleasant surprise when the Reds scored 9 runs, but Tuesday showed what happens when the wind blows in at Great American Ball Park.
It’s not that there weren’t baserunners. Giants pitchers walked four Reds and hit another batter to give the Redlegs opportunities with men on. But the Reds didn’t get hits outside of the 1st inning, and even the one other hit that did come in the 6th inning was a fluke of an infield single by Scott Rolen.
(For a gif of Rolen's error, go to http://www.wcpo.com/generic/sports/baseball/reds/Rolen-error-gif )
What went wrong? A lot of deep fly balls stayed in the ball park. There were at least five hits that likely would have left GABP 30 days ago when the weather was warmer or if the wind wasn't blowing in, including two deep fly balls by Ryan Hanigan and Drew Stubbs in the bottom of the 9th. But that’s what happens when you live and die by the long ball; it becomes harder to get people across the plate when you can’t put the ball in play.
Since the weather is unpredictable per pitch, never mind per game, if the Reds don’t string some hits together as they did in Game 2, they simply won’t score runs against a very good Giants pitching staff. Could it happen this way on offense in Game 4? Yes, because it’s been the theme of the 40 days leading up to the postseason, when the Reds’ team average was just .230.
Another reason to worry is the Reds' starting pitcher for Game 4, Mike Leake.
Leake has the capability to pitch well, but with an ERA at 4.58 and the Giants’ bats yet to actually live up their potential this series, I would worry that things could get out of hand quickly Wednesday afternoon.
Final reason Reds fans should be worried: Barry Zito, the Giants' Game 4 starter, has let the Reds score just 2 runs on 10 hits in the 12 innings he faced them this year. If Zito is able to replicate a similar performance and hand off the game to the Giants' bullpen in the 7th, that gives San Francisco a significant upper hand.
NOT TO WORRY
The way the Giants got their runs in Game 3 came in a once-in-a-season fashion, especially when an eight-time Gold Glove winner is the one who made the error to give away the win.
Rolen makes that play 99 out of 100 times, and 100 out of 100 on anybody with slower legs than Joaquin Arias.
The play that set up the error to give away the game was also a fluke: Ryan Hanigan let a pitch get by him on an inside fastball that put the runners on second and third.
Hanigan had only three passed balls all of 2012, and has only had 11 in his career. It's very unlike him, and won’t happen again this postseason.
And the timing of two of the three hits the Giants got in the game were also a fluke. So far, Reds pitchers have made Buster Posey and Hunter Pence look pedestrian, but they’re bound to get hits. Posey is an NL MVP candidate with a .336 average this year and Pence is always a power-threat with 24 home runs and 104 RBIs in 2012.
The hits those two got (their third and first of the series respectively) just happened to come back-to-back. Broxton showed he had what it takes to be in that situation by striking out the other three batters he faced, Posey and Pence just hit them where they weren't on the ground through the infield to get on and set up the winning-run.
Even the first run the Giants scored in the 3rd inning was a fluke.
Homer Bailey, who was looking like a Cy Young candidate the last month, throws a 1-hitter with 10 strikeouts, but his one walk and one hit batter happen to come in the same inning, and even though the team takes care of the next three outs no problem, it still costs him a run. A fluke of unfortunate plays that came at the same time for the Reds.
A final fluke: Brandon Phillips being thrown out at third in the 1st inning. Had he been safe at third when he rounded second following a wild pitch that he had been stealing on, it would have allowed him to score on the following plays and this game would have ended in regulation, 2-1 Reds. It was the difference of a split second, a great throw by Posey, and about a foot before Phillips reached the bag when he was tagged.
Looking forward to Game 4’s starter for the Giants, Zito performed well against the Reds in 2012, but he did walk eight Reds in 12 innings he faced them, six in one game alone. If the Reds are patient at the plate on Wednesday, they may be able to let the Giants beat