Heading home to Cincinnati for Game 3 on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET on TBS with the potential to sweep the 2010 World Series champions, the Reds are coming off two dominating performances on the road that put them in that position.
And Reds manager Dusty Baker is of the mind that they do not want to give the Giants any opportunity to seize the momentum.
"You stay hungry and humble and you keep playing the way you've been playing," Baker said Monday. "[Leading] 2-0 doesn't mean anything unless you're up 3-0, which is what counts in this series."
In what will figure to be a raucous Great American Ball Park atmosphere, it'll be Homer Bailey on the mound for the Reds in Game 3 just 11 days after throwing a no-hitter, meeting fellow right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.
Regardless of the characters, history is the most imposing figure facing the Giants.
Since Division Series play began in 1995, the team going up 2-0 has advanced 38 of 42 times, or 90 percent of the time. Only four teams have come back from that deficit, the most recent being the 2003 Red Sox vs. the A's. The others are the 2001 Yankees vs. Oakland, the 1999 Red Sox vs. Cleveland and the 1995 Mariners vs. the Yankees. None of them had to win three consecutive road games to do it. And it has never happened in the National League.
For the Giants to join that group, it'll take more than a strong effort by Vogelsong. But that would be a good start.
One year after an amazing return to the Majors after four seasons away, including three in Japan, Vogelsong was strong through most of 2012, leading the league in ERA as late as Aug. 12 with a 2.27 mark before struggling in his last 10 starts, pegging his final ERA at 3.37.
"Really, if you look at how consistent he has been for the most part this year and he had a hiccup for three or four starts, but his last two starts he's gotten back on track and thrown the ball well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think he's earned this and that's how we arrived at this."
Vogelsong will be tasked with limiting a recently surging Reds lineup, something Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner couldn't do for the Giants in the first two games of the series.
"I think there is always the benefit to pitching second or third in a series because you do get to see some things," Vogelsong said Monday. "Obviously I think we need to attack some people differently. I trust [catcher Buster Posey] a lot. I have trusted him all year, and he and I will talk about things tomorrow and come up with what we want to do and try and come up with a good game plan, and hopefully that works."
Bailey, meanwhile, finished the regular season on a huge roll, spinning his no-hitter against the Pirates on Sept. 28, allowing just two baserunners in claiming the first Reds no-no in 24 years. He followed that up with a truncated outing of four innings in the season finale, allowing no runs on four hits.
Come Tuesday, the Reds' hopes of winning a postseason series for the first time since 1995 will be in the 26-year-old's hands.
After Bronson Arroyo spun a gem and the offense came alive against the Giants in Game 2, the Reds are heading home on a mission, and with momentum.
"I know the fans are going to be as jacked as they have ever been in that ballpark since it has been built, which is going to be nice," Arroyo said. "But that being said, we've got to calm it down a little bit and stay the task at hand because we haven't won anything and baseball is a crazy game. We need Homer to keep pressure on these guys in order to not let them get momentum and jump back in the series."
Reds: Cueto's status uncertain
Right-hander Johnny Cueto, who exited Game 1 with back spasms after throwing just eight pitches Saturday, flew back to Cincinnati earlier than the team to be further evaluated, and the Reds were still weighing whether they will need to replace him on the roster as of Monday's workout.
"We're going to do what's best for him," Baker said. "I just hope that's good for us, too."
If they did replace him on the roster, however, he would not be eligible to pitch in the NL Championship Series, should the Reds advance. Arroyo's stellar start Sunday certainly helped that situation, keeping the Reds staff in fine shape, but the team knows it can't wait too long to make a move on Cueto if it's their decision to do so.
"If you wait too long and do it at the last minute, [Major League Baseball] might not OK it," Baker said. "That's what we were told yesterday. You can't wait until the last minute."
Ryan Ludwick entered Game 2 just 1-for-16 with a double against Bumgarner before hitting a first-pitch homer to lead off the second inning Sunday. Including the regular season, 10 of Ludwick's 27 homers in 2012 have come on the first offering.
Brandon Phillips has a 7-for-14 ledger against Vogelsong, with Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier owning homers against the right-hander.
Giants: The Freak in relief
The Giants announced Monday that Barry Zito will start Game 4 on Wednesday if the Giants are able to stave off elimination with a win Tuesday. Coming off his best regular season in his six years so far with the Giants, Zito went 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA. The Giants picked up the win in Zito's last 11 starts of the season.
"He's won some big games," Bochy said. "He's been really on top of his game, and I think he's earned this. We all do. I'm glad to be able to tell Barry that he's getting the start. When you win your last 11 games that a pitcher starts, it's a pretty good thing."
Zito has pitched in six career Division Series games in five different postseasons with the A's, but was left off the postseason roster when the Giants made their World Series run in 2010.
Bochy had said Cain was an option to start Game 4 after pitching Saturday, but decided against having to send him out on short rest.
"This is more a case with rewarding Zito with how he's been pitching and the job he's done, and I think he's earned this," Bochy said. "Instead of pushing a starter back on short rest -- and there is a history of that not working too well, and this would have been the first time that we have asked Matt to do this this year -- we decided to go ahead and go with Barry."
With Vogelsong starting Game 3 and Zito starting Game 4, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is the odd man out of the Giants' starting rotation, with his role switching to relief out of the bullpen.
Lincecum pitched two sharp innings in relief Sunday, allowing one hit while striking out two.
Before Sunday's game, Lincecum, who recorded an out in relief in the 2010 postseason, said he's prepared to do whatever it takes to help the Giants this postseason.
"Any position I can be in to help the team, whether that's out of the bullpen or making a long-relief appearance or anything, it doesn't really matter to me," he said.
Game 2 was the first time the Giants were shut out in a postseason game since Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS against the Mets. They had just one hit in that game.
Losing Game 1 already wasn't a good sign for the Giants, not that it ever is for any team. They didn't do it once in their 2010 World Series run and have done so 10 times in 29 postseason appearances in franchise history. They haven't recovered from being down 1-0 since 1921, when they bounced back to win a nine-game World Series over the Yankees.
Baker, the Giants' skipper in the 2002 World Series, became just the third manager to oppose a team he took to the Fall Classic in the postseason later in his career. Joe McCarthy (Yankees vs. Cubs, 1932 and '38 World Series) and Billy Martin (A's vs. Yankees, 1981 American League Championship Series) are the others.
Of the 42 teams who have gone on to face a 0-2 deficit in Division Series play, 27 of them have gone on to be swept.