SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Giants know how realistic it is to rally in the playoffs.
San Francisco leads Washington 2-0 in the NL Division Series, two years after losing its first two games at home to the Reds — just as the Nationals did this time. The Giants became the first team in major league history to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three straight road games.
The Giants went on to win their second World Series title in three years, and they’re still riding a 10-game postseason winning streak dating to that run.
“Yeah, it can be done,” Washington manager Matt Williams said Sunday. “It can certainly be done. You have to start with the first one.”
The Nationals’ next — and, perhaps, last — chance comes in Game 3 today at AT&T Park when San Francisco can close the series at its picturesque waterfront home behind 18-game winner Madison Bumgarner. Last Wednesday, he pitched a four-hit shutout at Pittsburgh to win the wild-card game.
“We all know once you get to the postseason, anything can happen,” Bumgarner said. “But we’ve got to come in and we can’t afford to lose any focus because we’ve been in their spot, and we’ve come through the other side. So we have to maintain what we’re doing and just stay hungry.”
Both clubs could be weary following the Giants’ 2-1, 18-inning victory that stretched into Sunday morning. San Francisco’s plane landed back in the Bay Area just after 5 a.m.
The Nationals, who led the NL with 96 wins, held an optional workout under clear skies in Northern California. A few players tossed a football around in right field ahead of batting practice.
“We all know what we have to do. We don’t need speeches. We can pep talk ourselves,” Washington center fielder Denard Span said.
After Giants catcher Buster Posey could be seen blowing on his hands to keep warm a night earlier in the nation’s capital, cold weather shouldn’t be an issue during an unseasonably hot summer in San Francisco. It was 81 degrees as Washington players took the field Sunday.
Even after the cross-country flight, Williams wasn’t too concerned about his team being mentally ready to fight for its season after a pair of one-run defeats. Doug Fister will pitch Game 3.
“They’re fine. They’re all here,” Williams said. “We have an optional workout today, but the buses are full and they are itching to get back out there and work today. Last night’s flight was a long one, but there was a lot of conversation going. Guys were talking about the previous two games and what we must do to get back in this thing and win tomorrow. ...
“They don’t panic, for sure. That’s a good thing.”
Neither do the Giants, especially with such an imposing staff. During this 10-game postseason winning streak, San Francisco pitchers own an 0.90 ERA, having allowed 58 hits in 100 innings with 99 strikeouts and 27 walks.
The Giants are looking for the third-longest postseason winning streak ever and best since the 1998-99 New York Yankees won 12 straight, according to STATS.
While San Francisco won the 2012 NLCS at AT&T Park, it clinched the World Series on the road in 2010 and ‘12 and would welcome a chance to close out this series for the home fans.
“It’s going to be a little different tomorrow, and these guys know it, from 2010 and 2012,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I wish I knew the formula, the secret. ... Have some fun with it, embrace this.”
Fister’s last start at AT&T Park was memorable for the wrong reasons. Pitching for Detroit in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, Fister took a line drive by Gregor Blanco off the right side of his head but stayed in and carried a shutout bid into the seventh inning. The Tigers wound up losing 2-0 and San Francisco swept.
“Doesn’t matter where he pitches. It could be here, it could be D.C., it could be the moon,” Williams said.
Bumgarner was on the mound that day, too, and outdueled a determined Fister.
“That’s a scary thing,” Bumgarner said. “I’d say there’s not a whole lot of guys that would want to stay in after that, so that speaks about his character and about his competitiveness. That’s the reason he’s one of the best. You’re not going to be one of the best and not have that type of competitive edge.”
Now, it’s up to the Nationals right-hander to stave off elimination.
Fister, who grew up about two hours away in Merced in California’s Central Valley, has watched video of the play many times.
“I remember it very vividly. It’s not something that gives me chills or anything else,” Fister said. “It’s something that I’ve gone back and looked at it just to know that, you know what, ‘Hey, I’m OK.’ I was blessed that day to come out on top and not have to come out of the game.”