CINCINNATI -- The new slogan for the Giants' 2012 postseason isn't particularly good for the health, or clubhouse ambience, but it's effective.
After Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds that forced a winner-take-all Game 5 in the National League Division Series, Tim Lincecum turned to a group of smiling teammates.
"Same clothes tomorrow!" he yelled.
The Giants don't intend to make any off-field changes Thursday as they aim to become the first team in League Division Series history to overcome a 2-0 deficit by winning three straight games on the road. Players must wear the same street clothes (although they're allowed to swap in a new pair of underwear), and Hunter Pence will give the same fiery speech that he has given before both victories at Great American Ball Park.
On the field, however, the Giants have morphed by leaps and bounds since falling behind with two lackluster efforts in San Francisco.
A night after becoming the first team in eight years to win a postseason game with fewer than four hits, the Giants had 11 hits, including homers from Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval.
And Lincecum, long the mainstay of the rotation, came out of the bullpen firing strikes. Left out of the postseason rotation, Lincecum earned the win with 41/3 dominant innings in relief of Barry Zito, who was knocked out in the third.
"He's a big-game pitcher, a big-time pitcher," Pence said of Lincecum. "We
Through three games, it was hard to believe the Giants would hit enough to overcome a deep Reds team. The Giants had just four runs in the first three games of the series and were hitting .126 as a team.
Pagan, a catalyst during the second-half surge, put a charge into the dugout with a solo homer off Mike Leake two pitches into the game. The laser shot was the first postseason leadoff homer in the franchise's history.
"He woke up the offense," Sandoval said.
Did he ever.
Blanco hit a two-run shot in the second inning, his first homer since July 18. The blast gave Zito a cushion to work with, but he couldn't find his way. Zito gave up a hit and walked three in the first inning but allowed just one run. After escaping another jam in the second inning, he gave up a solo homer to Ryan Ludwick in the third. A two-out walk later in the inning ended Zito's first postseason appearance with the Giants after just eight outs.
Zito was charged with two runs on four walks and four hits.
"I was just trying to be too fine, and it was a frustrating situation," Zito said. "Sometimes you want it so badly, but you have to remember to stay with each pitch."
Zito wasn't frustrated after the game, in large part because of what happened right after he exited. George Kontos got the Giants out of the third inning, and when the Reds got two runners on with one out in the fourth, Jose Mijares came in and struck out Reds No. 3 hitter Joey Votto. With Ludwick looming, manager Bruce Bochy called Lincecum in for his second relief appearance in three games.
"When you're on a stage like this, you're hoping somebody steps up," Bochy said. "Timmy has that ability, and he did tonight."
Lincecum struck out Ludwick, flicking the switch on his most electric performance of the season.
He pitched 41/3 innings, the longest postseason relief outing by a Giant since Kirk Rueter went the same distance in the 2000 NLDS. Lincecum struck out six and allowed just one run as the Giants pulled away, with Sandoval's mammoth two-run blast in the seventh being the big blow. In two relief appearances this series, Lincecum has thrown 61/3 innings and given up just three hits and an earned run while striking out eight.
"You're just here to get outs until they tell you you're done," Lincecum said. "You kind of go out there with that expectation of doing well, and when things go well, you think this is the way it should be."
Lincecum's teammates felt the same way. Asked what he expected when No. 55 came running out of the bullpen, Buster Posey smiled.
"That," he said emphatically. "What he did. I think that everybody on the team expects that."
The Giants, with their offense finally in gear and their bullpen rested thanks to Lincecum's long outing, have high expectations for Thursday. Only seven teams in history have come back from a 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-five postseason series. None has done what the Giants will attempt to do Thursday, when they aim to sweep all three games at the home of the National League Central champion Reds.
"We weren't thinking about three games when we came here," Sandoval said. "We've been going day by day, game by game."
The Giants and Reds are down to one day and one game: Matt Cain versus Mat Latos. It's all hands on deck, and even Lincecum said he would be available after throwing 55 pitches, 42 of them for strikes. He promised to wear the same maroon T-shirt, and said he's looking forward to Pence's third speech in three days.
"Oh yeah, I've got one more of those," Pence said before pausing and flashing a mischievous smile. "Actually, I've got a lot more of those, hopefully."