Three keys for the Giants in Game 3

Three keys for the Giants in Game 3

ST. LOUIS -- No two postseasons are alike. Two years ago, the Giants defeated the Rangers in five games to win their first World Series title since 1954. They did it with great starting pitching, a lights out closer in Brian Wilson, and just enough timely hitting from the likes of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, and oh yes, Buster Posey.

Well, Huff is on the bench, Ross, Burrell, Uribe and Renteria are long gone, the injured Wilson has been replaced by a bullpen by committee, the starting pitching has been problematic, and Posey is the only player remaining from the 2010 postseason starting lineup.

NLCS

But here again, just like 2010, are the Bruce Bochy-led Giants, tied 1-1 in the National League Championship Series, this time against the Cardinals. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is slated at Busch Stadium for 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday (FOX), weather permitting. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for game time with an 80-percent chance of rain in the morning, according to weather.com.

Matt Cain is going for the Giants and he'll try to follow the seven-inning, four-hit, one-run performance turned in by Ryan Vogelsong in a 7-1, Game 2 win at AT&T Park on Monday night.

"I'd like to say it's more of us not making good pitches and not really executing things that we need to get done," Cain said, trying to explain the woes of his fellow starters on Tuesday. "We feel like we can stop even a good hitting team if we make good quality pitches. We've made a lot of mistakes over the past six games or seven games. Vogey didn't [Monday], and it showed."

Here are three things the Giants need to accomplish this week on the road -- where they are 3-0 this postseason and 9-2 in their last 11 playoff games away from home -- if they hope to ascend again to the World Series:

1. Ryan Theriot must play well if he has to replace Marco Scutaro at second base.

It's hard to imagine that one of San Francisco's biggest problems might be replacing the feisty Scutaro, but that is the case. Scutaro hurt his left hip on Monday night when Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday hit him late on a slide past second base. Bochy said he was "hopeful" that Scutaro would play in Game 4.

"The MRI showed a left hip strain and contusion," Bochy said. "He's left knee is a little sore. He'll get treatment today and we'll know where he's at tomorrow. That's what we're hopeful for. If he's good to go, he'll play. If not, you'll see Theriot out there."

Scutaro and Theriot are both hitting .250 in the postseason, but Scutaro has been a spark plug since the July 27 trade that brought him over from Colorado. He hit .362 in 61 games for the Giants, solidified the infield and is 4-for-8 in the series. Theriot was a .270 hitter in 104 games and Bochy doesn't believe the drop-off is precipitous.

"Well, I think we put a pretty good player out there that has experience and he got a big hit for us in Ryan Theriot," Bochy said about a player who knocked in a couple of runs with a single after he replaced Scutaro on Monday. "It's nice to have depth on your club and have a guy like Theriot, who you can put out there if you have to. And we have all the confidence in the world with him."

It'll be a pregame decision that may have major ramifications.

2. Bochy's decision on starters for Games 4 and 5 looms large.

There are not many times in a playoff situation anymore when a club's pitching is healthy, but the manager has yet to make the call about who's starting beyond Game 3. Right now, that's the case for the Giants.

Back in the 1950s, when Casey Stengel was managing the Yankees to 10 American League pennants and seven World Series titles in 12 years, the Old Professor had a habit of keeping that decision to himself until the day of the World Series game. A pitcher would be notified he was starting by a baseball sitting between the baseball shoes in front of his locker. That's how Don Larsen found out he was starting that day at Yankee Stadium in 1956 when he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.

Bochy might as well do the same on Thursday. His choices for Game 4 are Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito, and Lincecum has already tossed two innings of flawless relief in Game 1.

Bochy would not divulge his thought process on Tuesday.

"I have not named a starter, really, because I don't have to right now, that's my biggest reason," he said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow."

Asked if there was any particular strategic reason for it, Bochy added.

"No, I don't have anything to give you on that. I'll just wait until the game tomorrow and we'll name that starter."

3. The Giants must eventually shut down Carlos Beltran.

Bochy knows Beltran well. The switch-hitting Cards right fielder was Hunter Pence last season, traded to the Giants by the Mets on July 28, 2011. But he played in only 44 games because of a right hand and wrist injury and the Giants didn't go back to the postseason.

This year against the Giants so far in the series, Beltran's hitting .429 (3-for-7) with a homer, two doubles and two RBIs, which should come as no surprise to anyone. Beltran is currently a .387 hitter with a .489 on-base percentage, a 1.33 OPS, 14 homers and 25 RBIs in 30 postseason games. These are not just numbers. They are gaudy numbers.

Beltran is the No. 2 hitter. But the three hitters behind him -- Holliday, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina -- are a combined 4-for-22 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs.

"[Beltran's] a great hitter. He's a tough guy to pitch to," Bochy said. "There are not a lot of holes there. We saw how good he is on a daily basis. He did a great job for us. Unfortunately we lost him on a DL for 15 days, which hurt. But he swung the bat very well for us. He's got that ability. Certain players, they have that ability to turn it up.

"It is remarkable, his numbers in the postseason, but I think it's a case of how good he is, the talent that he has, from both sides. And you have to be careful, hopefully make your pitches to him."

Clearly, if the Giants can shut down Beltran and continue to stifle the middle of the lineup, they can beat the Cardinals.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.