Giants must solve Cubs' pitching to stave off elimination

Giants must solve Cubs' pitching to stave off elimination

SAN FRANCISCO -- To keep their season alive, the Giants must do something they've struggled to do all year: They're going to have to figure out a way to hit against the Cubs.

The Giants batted .147 with a .461 OPS and scored 17 runs in seven regular-season matchups with the Cubs, their lowest offensive output against any club they faced more than four times this year. They haven't fared much better in the first two games of the National League Division Series, batting .190 without a walk and just four extra-base hits, all doubles.

One loss away from an early October exit, San Francisco could use an offensive boost behind Madison Bumgarner against Jake Arrieta in Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday at AT&T Park (9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT, FS1).

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 CHC 1, SF 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 8 CHC 5, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 SF 6, CHC, 5 (13) video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 CHC 6, SF 5 video

The Cubs present a tough matchup for any lineup. They led the Majors in just about every statistical category this season. They're well-rested for a run through October, and they're backed by an air-tight defense.

Their Game 1 and 2 starters -- Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks -- are NL Cy Young Award contenders. Their Game 3 starter, Arrieta, won the award last year. If there is a fourth game on Tuesday in San Francisco, the Cubs will start veteran John Lackey and his career 3.11 postseason ERA.

"It's tough no matter if you're facing a starter or reliever or what. It doesn't matter which starter, either," first baseman Brandon Belt said after the Giants' 1-0 loss in Game 1. "They're all really good. There's not much else to say."

What has made the Cubs' pitching such a challenge for the Giants? It may not be any more complicated than Belt's review.

"They're just really good," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's why you win over 100 games. It's usually your pitching. It's nice to have the lineup and score runs, but I promise you, if you don't have that kind of pitching, you probably are not going to win over 100 games."

Arrieta was especially stingy against the Giants, holding them to four runs (three earned) in two starts this season. Most of San Francisco's everyday starters have struggled against Arrieta throughout their careers, including Buster Posey (1-for-15), Brandon Crawford (1-for-13), Belt (0-for-10), Denard Span (4-for-20) and Hunter Pence (3-for-13).

The last Bumgarner-Arrtieta matchup may provide a blueprint for success in Game 3. Bumgarner allowed two runs over six innings in a 3-2 victory on Sept. 3 at Wrigley Field, even though San Francisco didn't exactly rough up Arrieta that day, managing three runs (two earned) on four hits and a pair of walks.

Bumgarner's 14th win

But the Giants capitalized on the Cubs' few mistakes. They scored one in the first inning on a double and an error; another on a walk, a wild pitch and a pair of singles; and a third on a couple of singles, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly.

That was all it took to avoid a four-game sweep in Chicago. With Bumgarner on the mound again, it might be all the Giants need to avoid elimination.

"A hit here or there, it's coming," Pence said after the Giants' 5-2 loss in Game 2. "You just have to keep pushing."

Adam Berry has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2011. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.