MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Giants hope venue shift helps them swing series

Castrovince: Giants look to swing series in Cincy

For the Giants to take this National League Division Series against the Reds, the prescribed formula was as follows: Outpitch them at AT&T, outhit them at Great American.

The first part of the formula proved faulty. Matt Cain could not extend the excellence that had defined his 2010 postseason effort, serving up a pair of crippling home runs in a Game 1 defeat. Madison Bumgarner had trouble hitting his spots as Game 2 wore on, the Reds pecking away at him with precision. And in the bullpen battle, the Reds have been superior, perhaps predictably.

So now, with an 0-2 deficit from which no NL team has ever arisen in the best-of-five Division Series format, any and all hope rests in the second element of the equation.

Unfortunately for the Giants, this would appear to be the more difficult task of the two.

Especially the way they've been swinging the bats so far.

"It hasn't been pretty," right fielder Hunter Pence said.

No, it has not, and add this to the ever-expanding list of examples of why October baseball is just a little bit different than all that came before.

Reds vs. Giants

Thing is, the Giants entered this series feeling more confident in their offensive attack than they ever did during their 2010 World Series run. They averaged five runs per game in the second half, with the production remaining prominent even as No. 3 hitter Melky Cabrera was socked with a 50-game suspension. They scored 4.97 runs per game in the season's final month.

Meanwhile, the Reds were reeling, from an offensive standpoint.

The Reds scored just 83 runs (2.86 per game) in the September/October portion of the regular-season schedule, the fewest in the Majors. It is true that many of those games came with a division title locked up. But still ... 83 runs. Joey Votto returned to the lineup after missing 45 games with a knee injury, but his power was sapped. And one had to wonder if the power of the rest of the Reds lineup would be similarly sapped by AT&T Park.

So, what happened when the playoffs kicked off? Well, both trends flipped on their heads, naturally.

Not only have the Reds scored 14 runs over the course of the two games, but they've done so with multi-hit efforts from seven of the eight position players in the lineup. They've put up quality at-bats, working counts, fouling off tough pitches, coming through in the clutch and extending leads late to ease the pressure on the 'pen.

"To get the bats going was huge," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "There was a lull after we clinched, for whatever reason."

There was no lull in San Francisco, even in the power department. Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick each went deep -- and quite convincingly, given the confines.

The confines will be decidedly different as the series shifts to Great American Ball Park on Tuesday, and it's a place suiting the strengths of a Reds club that went 70-25 when hitting a home run (the Reds won 50 games at home, second-most in the Majors).

It's also a place that can serve as a cure for sickly swings. The Giants qualify as candidates for a cure, but they've got to do their part, too.

In the Giants' clubhouse Sunday night, there was an obvious and overwhelming sense of frustration over the way the first two games unfolded. Not just because Cain and Bumgarner weren't at their best, but because of the way the offense did not take advantage of what had seemed like two encouraging opportunities -- Johnny Cueto's injury, which forced the Reds to pull off a juggling act from the first inning on in Game 1, and Bronson Arroyo's fly ball tendencies, which had been exploited in his past postseason appearances.

"You've got to tip your cap," manager Bruce Bochy said Monday. "Arroyo threw very well, and the first game we did hit balls hard. We couldn't get a couple of them to fall in. That might have changed that game a little bit."

Great American can be a game-changer, but the Giants feel they have their own adjustments to make beyond changing venues.

"That's a good ballpark to hit in," Pence said. "But it doesn't matter what ballpark you're in, you've got to have a good approach. We've got to let it all go, let it all hang out and fight."

As fights go, this is no longer an even-sided one. The Reds had expressed some frustration with this odd playoff alignment, in which the higher seed opens with two games on the road, because San Francisco, between the long travel and the thorny hitting environment, is no easy place to open up. To their credit, though, they didn't let any of that affect their game, even when their ace pulled up limp just one out into the proceedings. And now, they have what appears to be an overwhelming advantage.

"We've got to calm it down a little bit and stay on the task at hand," said Hanigan, "because we haven't won anything and baseball is a crazy game."

Great American can be a crazy park in which games change in a hurry. Only Milwaukee's Miller Park had a higher home run rate this season, and so the opportunity exists for the Giants to literally swing this series in their favor.

But they had an even better opportunity when the series opened on their home base, with their top two arms on the mound. And that opportunity went to waste.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.