Unprecedented NLDS feat in sight for Giants

Unprecedented NLDS feat in sight for Giants

Unprecedented NLDS feat in sight for Giants
CINCINNATI -- The talk in the visitors clubhouse at Great American Ball Park after the Giants beat the Reds the first time centered around the players fully understanding that at that point, it was simply about staying alive in the Division Series.

One day later, it's no longer about only trying to stave off elimination. Now, it's about winning it. The Giants' second win over the Reds in Game 4 of the National League Division Series evened the match at two games apiece, and for those who believe in momentum, the Giants appear to have the advantage.

Reds vs. Giants

That may sound silly, given the Giants have the same number of wins as the Reds heading to the final game of the best-of-five series. And technically, yes, they are in the same exact situation as they were a few days ago when they left San Francisco with no wins -- it's still a win-or-go-home scenario, so nothing's changed there.

The difference is they have won the last two games by doing everything they were not able to do in San Francisco to start the series. The Giants' pitching has been phenomenal. Their offense, more lucky than good and borderline non-existent in the first three games, reappeared just in the nick of time.

And even the one element that made them look like the sure-fire underdog -- former freaky ace Tim Lincecum has struggled so much, he was bounced to the bullpen -- ended up working in their favor. Lincecum absorbed almost half of the innings on Wednesday and couldn't have been more relevant to this win had he actually taken the mound to begin the game.

With Lincecum staying in for 4 1/3 innings and starter Barry Zito lasting 2 2/3 frames, this was almost like a reverse start for the former, whose six strikeouts were reminiscent of the good old days of just a couple of years ago when he was achoring a World Series rotation.

Taking everything into consideration -- the inspirational win on Tuesday, the dominating one the next day and the very comforting thought that ace Matt Cain takes the mound for the deciding game -- the Giants like their odds.

"Do I feel momentum is [back] on our side? I never felt like it left," Sergio Romo said. "This club is energetic. We haven't really been down. I know we've been down in the series, but we weren't down in mindset or attitude. We're a scrappy ballclub. We'll stick with each other and play for the guy next to us. It's worked for us the last couple of days."

Winning Games 3 and 4
Down 2-0 to begin the NLDS, the Giants battled back to even the series. Only four teams have come all the way back to advance after losing Games 1 and 2 in a Division Series, with two others winning Games 3 and 4 only to fall in Game 5.
Year Result
1995 Mariners over Yankees
1999 Red Sox over Indians
2001 Yankees over A's
2003 Red Sox over A's
2010 Rays (lost series to Rangers)
2011 D-backs (lost series to Brewers)
Zito acknowledged the Giants were keenly aware of some things that may have rattled the infrastructure of a very solid Reds team early in the series, beginning with a back strain to ace Johnny Cueto that turned into a much more serious injury involving an oblique muscle.

"It's interesting," Zito said. "There were some other facets. Obviously, Cueto had the oblique, [Mat] Latos was sick, I heard, so they started [Mike] Leake. It's baseball. It's an unpredictable game."

The players probably don't care about the historic nature of all of this, or that what they could be on the cusp of pulling off has never been done in the National League. But it's worth noting that if San Francisco does win again on Thursday, it will be the first time an NL team has rallied from down 0-2 in the Division Series to win it. NL teams are 0-21 in past attempts.

Four teams have done it, however, all from the American League: the 1995 Mariners, '99 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees and '03 Red Sox.

If the Giants don't win Thursday, they'll join the 2010 Rays and the '11 D-backs as the only other teams to rally from an 0-2 deficit only to lose Game 5.

From now until game time Thursday, the Giants will put on their public faces and say all the right things: It's not over yet. We haven't won anything. We have to stay focused. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

In truth, the Giants, with their well-rested bullpen (courtesy of Lincecum) and their inspirational pregame scrums (courtesy of Hunter Pence), can't wait to play again.

"It's just unbelievable and so fun to watch," Zito said. "All those home runs were kind of the nail in the coffin as far as today's game goes. We got to rest Romo, which is huge. We got to rest [Jeremy] Affeldt. It was a huge boost for us, team-wise. We're fortunate for a Game 5, you can't ask for anything more than that."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.