SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 07: Starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo #61 of the Cincinnati Reds hugs manager Dusty Baker following their victory over the San Francisco Giants during Game Two of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park …
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SAN FRANCISCO - The Reds have cruised to a 2-0 NLDS lead over the San Francisco Giants doing what they’ve done best all year: pitching.
The Reds have a 1.00 team ERA through two games of the 2012 postseason, better than any other team in the playoffs thus far.
Pretty good right? When you consider that they used nine different pitchers to get there, it looks even better.
Upon walking amongst Giants fans and hometown San Francisco media, the sentiment was clear after Game 2: “We should have beat that guy, you've got to beat that guy,” said one San Fran radio personality from the press box following the game’s last pitch. “Cueto and Latos sure, but you've got to beat a guy like Arroyo.”
The attitude was echoed among disgruntled Giants fans. “Arroyo!?” one fan was heard crying out in shock as he left AT&T Park in the eighth inning when the game was out of reach.
On the radio after the game, the sports talk was all geared around the same thing. “If you’re the Giants, you can’t make every pitcher look like a Cy Young candidate.”
Hate to break it to you Giants fans, but the Reds have been doing this all year, through all spots in the rotation and bullpen.
Bronson Arroyo specifically has thrown shutout baseball twice before in 2012, and pitched five one-run stints as well. His success is no fluke.
Of the Reds normal rotation and relievers, only two pitchers had an ERA more than four all season: Starter Mike Leake, who has proven he can be brilliant at times in games like his two one-run complete games against the Giants in June and the Mets in August, and Bill Bray, who has battled injury and gone back and forth from AAA Louisville to Cincinnati multiple times.
Now consider Bray is a one- or two-batter lefty specialist in the playoffs, and Mike Leake is an emergency long reliever thanks to the playoff schedule enabling the Reds to shorten their starting rotation to four, and there never really is an "should beat this guy" at-bat for opposing teams.
The depth of this team was front and center in Game 1 of the NLDS when starter Johnny Cueto went down after just eight pitches because of back spasms.
Aroldis Chpaman has been the only reliever to give up a run, and if you consider he had the lowest ERA on the team all season, it’s tough to see him giving up much more as the postseason carries on and he settles in.
Admittedly, the Reds' bats in Game 2 were a surprise, but this pitching staff is a known advantage that the Giants seemingly either didn’t prepare for, or thought they had a handle on, and as a result were overmatched.
It was a gutsy move by Reds skipper Dusty Baker to mix up the rotation and have Arroyo pitch Game 2 at AT&T Park, even though he had never won there, and even gutsier to trust Mat Latos on three-days rest in Game 1 to shut down the Giants’ hot bats after the Cueto injury, but both decisions were as brilliant as the Reds' pitching staff has been.
Baker’s managerial tactics have often been overheard in a Cincinnati bar as, “Come on, Dusty, seriously?”, but Reds fans everywhere have to start coming around on Baker’s decisions, they are what got the Reds out to a 2-0 series lead headed back home.
When the Giants made their 2010 World Series run, they did it on great pitching and timely hits. I dare not get ahead of myself this year, but that’s exactly what the Reds have done all year, and so far this postseason, it’s more of the same.
The Reds can only hope that the most obvious key to their success continues to be the best kept secret this postseason. Call it one advantage of being a small market team.
First pitch of Game 3 Tuesday night is at 5:37 p.m. with Homer Bailey (3.68 ERA) going against Ryan Vogelsong (3.37 ERA).
And shh, don't tell the Giants, but Homer Bailey had a no-hitter on a pretty decent Pittsburgh Pirates lineup less than two weeks ago on Sept. 28, so no, he's not a "you've got to beat that guy" pitcher either.
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