Because it figures to be nip and tuck throughout, there are several underlying keys, factors, matchups, decisions, etc., that could prove the difference between a World Championship and extending a long title drought.
Here are five that I believe could tip the scales in favor of the Giants.
But aside from the percentages, dropping a home game with Tim Lincecum(notes) on the mound could be devastating for the G-Men's psyches. By the same token, a loss in a Cliff Lee game (home or away) could be crippling for Texas. It's a huge, huge game.
I'm not saying you shouldn't watch any of the games beyond it. No way, this series is too intriguing to miss any of the action. I'm simply saying the advantages that go along with winning a game over unbeatable Cliff Lee are too overwhelming to ignore for the Giants. Win this game and they're in the driver's seat — perhaps even more firmly than usual.
2. The unsung hero factor must continue: Cody Ross(notes) and Juan Uribe(notes). The Giants will continue counting on these guys for production outside the middle of their order, especially against Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson(notes). However, if it doesn't come from them, it'll have to be made up for elsewhere.
Aaron Rowand(notes) could see at-bats in the first two games if Andres Torres'(notes) hip is still sore. Edgar Renteria(notes) figures to continue seeing regular time. Anything from those guys would be nice, but I think the guy they really need a big series from is Freddy Sanchez(notes). His job won't be to drive in runs, but he'll need to consistently be in position to score.3. Javier Lopez(notes) and Jeremy Affeldt(notes): Good luck to both of these lefties, as their assignment in this series will be to attempt to contain Josh Hamilton(notes) in the late innings.
It would be crazy and unfair to expect them to win the matchup every time, but a positive success rate would be huge for the Giants. In case you're wondering, Hamilton's history with both:
vs. Javier Lopez: 1-for-3 with a double, strikeout and a walk.
vs. Jeremy Affledt: No history
4. Defense: The Giants benefited from the shaky defense of the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies en route to the World Series, but they also had to overcome some of their own physical and mental errors in the field. Those will have to be eliminated, or at least limited, if they hope to complete their journey.
5. The more torture, the better: It's the Giants formula for success. Pitch, timely hitting, pitch, play defense, pitch, catch a break, cash it in, and then hold the lead with pitching. If the Giants get knocked off that track in any shape or form, it'll be trouble.
Sorry Giants fans, that's just how it goes. Your team has already tied a postseason record with six one-run victories. That number is going to have to increase, even if it means shortening the life expectancy of Bay Area residents.
- Cliff Lee