The Giants lead the Cardinals 3-1 in the National League Championship Series and have a chance to clinch tonight at AT&T Park. Two years ago, the Cardinals led the Giants in the NLCS 3-1, and also had a chance to clinch at home.
But the Giants rattled off three wins in a row en route to their World Series title in three years.
Does anybody in the Giants clubhouse need reminding of that?
“Some things don’t need to be said,” explained Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
“We know that just because we’re up 3-1, that doesn’t mean anything,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “I don’t think we relax at all. I think we know from experience not to relax.”
History, however, indicates the Giants are in a good position to win their third N.L. pennant since 2010 and advance to the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Teams leading 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win 85 percent of the time in major-league postseason history (66-12), with 38 of those series ending in Game 5.
“Our backs are against the wall,” said Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter. “But we feel like they have been that way all season. This is a group that’s been resilient and has battled through a lot.”
The Giants will try to clinch tonight behind ace Madison Bumgarner, who threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Cardinals in Game 1.
Tonight’s Game 5 lineup behind Bumgarner (2-1, 0.76 ERA in three 2014 postseason starts):
The Cardinals’ lineup behind ace right-hander Adam Wainwright (0-1, 8.00 ERA in two 2014 postseason starts):
▪ Bochy didn’t rule any of his relievers out tonight after the bullpen complied six shutout innings in the Giants’ 6-4 win Wednesday night in Game 4. He said he’d “probably stay away from” using Yusmeiro Petit, who threw three of those innings, but that Petit is a resilient arm.
▪ Hunter Strickland hasn’t appeared in the past two games and threw a bullpen session Monday, saying he and the Giants’ pitching coaches were also going to explore whether the right-hander might be tipping pitches. Strickland has allowed four home runs in four appearances this postseason, all to left-handers on fastballs.
“He has a little different delivery, which some pitchers have, where he takes the ball out of the glove, and we just wanted to make sure he was not tipping,” Bochy said. “So we took a look at it. We had him throw on the mound. We had some hitters look at it.
“We’re comfortable with where he is now. We tweaked him a little bit. I don’t want to go into what all Dave (Righetti) did, but you know, that was part of (the bullpen session), along with a couple other little things.”
▪ Tim Lincecum still has yet to pitch in the postseason. Bochy said he’s an option tonight after the heavy bullpen usage this series, but it has become clear Lincecum is not a key part of the relief corps like he was in 2012.
“He’s taking his bullpens, he’s staying ready,” Bochy said. “I talked to him briefly and … he goes, ‘I get it. I understand. But I’m going to stay ready.’
“The most important thing is you’ve got to keep working in case you are called on. And so he’s doing that.”
▪ The Cardinals have Tony Cruz, a right-handed hitter, starting against Bumgarner after left-handed-hitting A.J. Pierzysnki started the past two games.
Manager Mike Matheny said Yadier Molina gave “a pretty valiant effort” trying to talk his way into the lineup today. But Molina still isn’t able to swing with an oblique strain. Matheny did say that Molina was going to enter last night’s game had the Cardinals tied it or gone ahead in the ninth.
“We would have figured out each at-bat as they came,” Matheny said. “He would have gone up with instructions not to swing. How those would be obeyed is another topic.”
▪ According to the Giants’ pre-game notes, their comeback from three runs down in Game 4 matched the second-largest comeback in franchise playoff history. They rallied from four runs down in Game 3 of the 1921 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Also, the Giants’ streak of six consecutive postseason games without a home run is the longest by any team since the 1973 Oakland A’s went eight consecutive games without one. The A’s won the World Series that year.