SAN FRANCISCO -- The weight of the world is on the Giants' pitching staff, as it is at all times and especially playoff times.
And right now, with Game 1 vs. the Cincinnati Reds set for Saturday, even the Giants have to be asking themselves:
Are the Giants pitchers up to carrying this franchise through the playoffs the same way they did in 2010?
"You know, it's a different dynamic a little bit," pitching coach Dave Righetti said in the clubhouse Friday. "But as a group, it's definitely just as good."
Many of the names are the same, and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner -- the Games 1 and 2 starters -- seem to be at or near their 2010 glory levels.
But there's a big question mark next to the rest of the Giants' staff, starting with Tim Lincecum, who could start Game 3 in Cincinnati's lively Great American Ball Park or maybe get summoned as a reliever before that.
Really, the whole series could turn on Lincecum, who has had the worst season of his career by far, yet remains the fulcrum of this staff and team.
If Lincecum is at top form, the entire franchise seems to run smoother.
"That's what I'm hoping," Righetti said of Lincecum's potential key role. "But the first thing I told Tim is, 'You're going to be a dynamic thing in this, and it might not be just for one game. Who knows with you.'
"And he goes, 'Man, whatever it takes.' That's how he answered it to me immediately. So he's looking to help out any way he can, and that's not just words."
Yes, it's absolutely a pieced-together pitching staff for the Giants these days, which is normal for teams in the playoffs but is vastly different from their 2010 journey.
Two years ago, manager Bruce Bochy had the rotation all laid out before the start of every series and knew that Brian Wilson would be finishing them.
This year, Wilson was shut down in the early going and Bochy has hesitated naming his starters past Game 2. This seems partly to account for the possibility of using Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong in relief this weekend.
The Giants desperately want two victories this weekend. If they have to manipulate their staff to do it, they will.
"Some of it's to try to take advantage of having the first two games at home and assessing where you're at," general manager Brian Sabean said of rotation secrecy.
So could Lincecum, who came out of the bullpen in Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS clincher, turn into a big piece in all this?
"Well, we'll see," Sabean said. "I think anybody that pitches for us, because of the potency of this (Reds) team, is going to have to put up zeros."
The Reds are a good hitting team that has sagged offensively of late, but the Giants know that Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick can get hot at any time.
Sabean calls Cincinnati "as rough a first-round opponent as you can have," and the Reds handled the Giants fairly easily in their season series.
Mostly, Sabean said he knows that the Giants cannot let the Reds take leads into the late innings, because the Cincinnati bullpen is ferocious.
So, as usual, the ball is in the hands of the Giants' pitchers, who have done this before.
They didn't put up the same statistics as 2010, but anything close to a repeat October performance could get them past Cincinnati and everybody else.
Righetti said the turning point this season came in early August, when he and Bochy challenged the entire staff to lock in and help lead the team.
Is this staff ready for October, Dave?
"You know something? If you would've asked me that question a few months ago, it'd be a different answer," Righetti said.
"But the guys answered that ... because there were a lot of questions about all different things. So my answer, is yeah, now I feel the same way about it."
This would be the time for Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum and the rest to show it, of course. The Reds rotation is strong but might have a hard time matching a Giants pitching renaissance.
"They've all been doing it for a while," catcher Buster Posey said of the Giants staff. "It seems like Bumgarner, what he's been through in a few years, you feel really good with him. And Cain obviously.
"Zito's been there a long time. Timmy has a track record. I know Vogey's excited. So they'll be ready to go. ...
"Yeah, I think that we know how good those guys are."
Are the Giants' pitchers up for this? It's a question, and it's the entire pivot point of this series, and this playoff exercise.
They carry the weight. They have the attention. It all starts, or ends, with them, and we'll know pretty quickly if they're up to it.