The San Francisco Giants' run to last year's World Series title nearly ended in the division series until they swept their road games against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Giants will have a more modest goal when they return to Great American Ball Park.
San Francisco will try to turn around what's so far been a miserable road trip while Cincinnati will seek to bounce back from its own woeful trek in Monday night's series opener.
After starting the playoffs with back-to-back home losses, the Giants staved off elimination in their next three games in Cincinnati. They then rallied from a 3-1 deficit to St. Louis in the NL championship series and swept Detroit for their second title in three years.
San Francisco (39-42) has hardly looked like a contender for much of this season. The Giants had dropped six straight - their longest skid in three seasons - and seven in a row on the road before Sunday's 5-2 win over Colorado.
That victory, highlighted by Buster Posey's fourth homer in five games, also ended an 0-5 start to their 10-game road trip and was only their fourth in the past 15 overall contests.
"(Posey's) been really on fire for us, giving us a chance to win some of these games," outfielder Hunter Pence told the team's website. "Our pitching's been great, Buster's been hitting, get a few more guys clicking at the same time and that's how you start winning ballgames."
The Reds, meanwhile, have lost eight of 11 and went 2-6 in their visits to Arizona, Oakland and Texas. Cincinnati (46-36), batting .214 in its last 11 games, had six singles in Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers.
"We couldn't get any type of hit when we needed it," outfielder Jay Bruce said. "We need to execute better."
While its hitters try to get back on track, Cincinnati is hoping Bronson Arroyo (6-6, 3.61 ERA) can help pick up the slack by continuing his recent success against San Francisco.
The right-hander is 4-2 with a 1.72 ERA in his last nine starts against the Giants, including a 9-0 victory in Game 2 of the NL division series. Arroyo gave up one hit and one walk over seven innings in that game but heads into this one after a forgettable performance.
He was tagged for seven runs - his most allowed in two seasons - in just four innings of Tuesday's 7-3 loss in Oakland. The A's put in seven left-handed or switch hitters in the lineup against Arroyo, who was 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in his previous eight starts.
"They just had a great approach against me, to be honest with you," he told the team's website. "I predicate my game on being able to play a mental chess match with guys and beating them to the move first. They just beat me to the punch."
Arroyo might have a chance to get back in the win column if Giants rookie Mike Kickham (0-2, 10.57) continues to struggle.
The left-hander allowed six runs over 5 1-3 innings in his second major league start, a 6-5 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. He was called up from the minors the previous day for the second time this season because of Chad Gaudin's elbow injury.
While they faltered at home in the playoffs, the Reds have won seven of the last eight regular-season meetings there against the Giants.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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