SAN FRANCISCO — They are four victories away from the World Series, and yet the San Francisco Giants find themselves struggling with fundamental parts of their success the past several seasons. For one, they can't get effective starting pitching. At least not lately. Their starters had a 5.40 ERA with 11 walks in 21 2/3 innings the NLDS. And in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday night, Madison Bumgarner allowed six runs without getting out of the fourth inning.
Another thing: The Giants have struggled at AT&T Park. They dropped their two home games to the Reds in the first round before rallying, then lost home-field advantage in the NLCS by falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the series opener here. Going back to July 25, the Giants are 17-18 at home. Overall, they went 48-33 at home. They'll need to win at least one game on the West Coast if they want to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.
Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong might be the best man, among any of their starting pitchers, to help reverse both of the negative trends.
Though he was hardly dominant, Vogelsong limited the Reds to one run in the first round at Cincinnati. On the season, his ERA was a full run lower at AT&T Park than on the road. It makes sense, given the park's pitcher-friendly dimensions and its frequently packed houses of fierce supporters. Not that either helped Bumgarner in Game 1. On Sunday, Vogelsong said he's looking forward to getting a postseason start at home.
"Well, it's no secret, I've said in the past, that I definitely feed off the energy that this crowd brings," Vogelsong said. "I'm sure it's going to be pretty intense tomorrow night. It's pretty intense on a regular season game here in the middle of June. So tomorrow night should be extra energetic. It should be fun, and hopefully I can feed off of them a little bit like I always do and put together a good game."
Manager Bruce Bochy said the obvious — "It makes it easier when you get a quality start" — but added that it's not the end of the season just because the Giants lost Game 1.
"No, it's best out of seven," Bochy said. "We've shown how resilient we can be. We hate to lose them at home. But it happens."
As for the "Why?" the team has struggled at home, reliever Jeremy Affeldt said it's a question without an answer.
"Everybody tries to put a finger on it. You can't," Affeldt said. "We scored more runs on the road than we did at home (during the regular season). If we're going to do that (in the playoffs), it's a good thing we've got three (games) on the road. And hopefully we can win this one [Monday]."
They won't win the series without decent starting pitching, and they won't win if they can't take at least one game at home. It shouldn't be too much to ask from the Giants.
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