It seems like long ago that the San Francisco Giants’ starting rotation was the best in baseball.
The 2010 starting staff for the Giants led the league during the regular season with a 3. 36 ERA, followed by a 2.47 ERA in the playoffs that saw them win the World Series by simply being unhittable and providing timely hitting.
Fast-forward two years to this series against the Reds in the NLDS, and the Giants are one game away from being sent home far earlier in October than they had planned.
What’s worse is that a major reason for San Francisco sitting on the brink of elimination is their starting pitching.
The 2012 Giants are built around their offense, not there starting pitching — a formula that every other team used in 2010 except the World Series champion Giants.
No longer can we expect Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner to go deep into games allowing less than two runs, but we cannot expect them to even keep the Giants in the game, either.
Sunday night’s debacle at AT&T Park, where Bumgarner gave up four runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings, was the perfect example of how inconsistent this staff has been the entire 2012 season — a far cry from how reliable it once was.
“I felt like I made some pretty good pitches,” Bumgarner said. “They hit it where we weren’t.
“My control felt pretty good. I was throwing the pitches I wanted to throw.”
Matt Cain was not much better than Bumgarner in Game 1 on Saturday, going five innings and giving up three runs.
Sure, the Giants are not hitting, but credit the Reds’ offense too.
The Giants knew the best part of Cincinnati’s game was their offense, and it was on full display this weekend.
Bronson Arroyo looked near perfect for a good portion of Sunday night’s Game 2, as well, but the 2010 Giants did not hit much, either. They relied on their starters to create momentum through shut-out innings, then knocked them down with the offense in the most dire of late-inning situations.
This year, that is not the case.
“We just could not get much going,” Bruce Bochy said. “It’s hard to get the crowd going when you can t get anyone on base. We just couldn’t get a rally going at all.”
The momentum built off solid starting pitching in the past is not there, and the Giants are having trouble playing from behind — even in front of an AT&T Park crowd begging for any reason get on their feet, cheer and wave their rally rags.
They never got the chance this weekend.
“At this point, we have nothing to lose,” Buster Posey said.
Two-time Cy Young award-winner Tim Lincecum, maybe the most reliable Giants starter in 2010, did not even make the NLDS starting rotation.
Instead, he came out of the bullpen on Sunday and thrived off adrenaline to become the only bright spot in the Giants’ 9-0 loss to the Reds.
And so the Giants are on the brink of elimination on the road with a pitcher making his first career postseason start.
For Ryan Vogelsong, it will be a start the Giants desperately need to be strong and run late into the game.
For the team’s sake, it better be one that leaves a better taste in their mouths than what they have had in the first two games of this series.