Three keys for the Giants in Game 3 of the NLCS

San Francisco must awaken bats, rely on home crowd to take series edge

Three keys for the Giants in Game 3 of the NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- To a man, the Giants insisted that they felt fortunate to leave Busch Stadium on Sunday night with a split of the first two games in their National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now they're obligated to impose home-field advantage upon the Cardinals as the series shifts to San Francisco's AT&T Park for Games 3 through 5, Tuesday through Thursday. If the Giants had their druthers, they'd find a way to avoid returning here to conclude the series. But that would mean winning three games in a row -- and it's extremely difficult for any club to sweep any team, anywhere, whether it's the regular season or postseason.

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video

So the Giants will maintain the good old take-it-one-at-a-time approach. As dreary a cliche as that is, it's the wisest way to handle business. It forces players to maintain focus and perspective.

Assuming San Francisco's mental outlook is sound, here's how the Giants can re-establish control of the series in Game 3:

1. Get the crowd going
Whether it takes scoring first or making a breathtaking defensive play, San Francisco must use the home fans to its advantage. Every postseason qualifier has a vociferous fan base, but the Giants truly derive something extra from their loyalists, who have sold out AT&T Park for 327 consecutive games. The Cards are too professional and polished to be intimidated, but some sustained enthusiasm from the pro-Giants crowd could put the visitors on their heels.

2. Relying on Hudson
San Francisco starter Tim Hudson has experienced mixed success in postseason competition. His ERA in 11 appearances, including 10 starts, is a respectable 3.19. But his record is 1-3. The Giants will look for him to deliver a performance that befits his status as the Majors' winningest active pitcher.

3. Break out the bats
Since routing Pittsburgh, 8-0, in the NL Wild Card Game, the Giants have scored 16 runs in six games. They absolutely must pick up the pace to outlast St. Louis in this series. San Francisco's pitching has remained excellent, but the club can't assume that its pitching can remain airtight for the remainder of this series. The Giants could use a big day or two from their big hitters.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.