It's not necessarily the start the San Francisco Giants were hoping for in the National League Division Series, but the Bay Area squad will have to put the past two outings in the rear view mirror in a do-or-die game Monday night.
Despite sitting in a less-than-desirable 0-2 series hole, this is not uncharted territory for the San Francisco team looking to regain some of its even year postseason magic.
The Giants found themselves down two games to none against the Cincinnati Reds back in 2012 before rallying to win three consecutive contests and advance to the National League Championship Series. But facing a full-of-confidence Chicago Cubs team that also happens to be Major League Baseball's winningest squad in 2016 is a bit different story.
"We've been down in the first series 0-2, but not in this exact position," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence told reporters. "Every year is a different year. It's definitely not an ideal situation. We understand the situation. Our backs are against the wall."
Through two games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, San Francisco's offense has struggled to ignite any rhythm. Giant bats were shut out in Game 1 facing veteran Jon Lester. The following evening, San Francisco tallied six hits against Kyle Hendricks, the National League's regular season leader in earned run average, and the rest of Chicago's bullpen.
"It's playoff baseball, and we know it's going to be low-scoring," infielder Joe Panik told reporters. "But obviously we have to be better as an offense, to jump out to a lead and keep going."
San Francisco batters will be tested yet again in Game 3 in their home confines against Jake Arrieta, an 18-game winner in the regular season that has faced the Giants twice this season. In three career playoff starts, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA.
Fortunately for San Francisco, reliable ace Madison Bumgarner is slated to take the hill for Monday's contest, which is scheduled for 6:38 p.m. The left-hander has a 1.94 earned run average in 15 career postseason appearances. Under the pressure in elimination games, Bumgarner has hurled 23 straight scoreless innings.
"That gives us a little confidence, obviously," Panik told reporters. "It's about winning one game at a time. I know that's a cliche, but you can't worry about winning three if you don't win the first one."
Arrieta and Bumgarner went toe-to-toe on the rubber back in September. The Giants got the better of the Cubs in that outing, earning a 3-2 decision. Tallying six innings of work each, Bumgarner allowed two runs on five hits to go along with 10 strikeouts while Arrieta granted three runs on four hits.
In his last outing at the end of September, Arrieta was tagged for 10 hits and seven runs while squaring off against the Pittsburg Pirates. In a much different affair, Bumgarner shined in his last bit of work, pitching a complete-game shutout against the New York Mets in the win-or-go-home National League Wild Card Game.
The San Francisco workhorse, who hopes to have a repeat Wild Card performance Monday, understands the magnitude of what's at stake.
"There hasn't been a whole lot to talk because everybody knows what kind of spot we're in," he told reporters. "The only thing we can do is come in and win (Monday). That's it. Win or go home."
Chicago manager Joe Maddon is certainly aware of Bumgarner's postseason dominance and San Francisco's ability to thrive when the pressure is ramped up.
"They're pros, man," he told reporters. "I've said that from the very first day the respect I have for that group. You see how they react to different moments. They never panic."
If the Giants can extend the series to a Game 4 scenario, they will have pushed their record in playoff elimination games to 10-0 since 2010.