INFIELD: The July 27 trade for Marco Scutaro was meant to help fill the third base void until Pablo Sandoval returned from a hamstring injury; instead it gave the lineup a consistent force at second base. Scutaro finished the regular season with a 20-game hitting streak. The Young Brandons get their first taste of the postseason. Crawford is a Gold Glove candidate and will get all the playing time at short against the Reds' all-righty rotation. Belt finished the regular season with two of his best months as a big leaguer but might be bumped to left field if manager Bruce Bochy puts Buster Posey at first base.
Midseason knee surgery sapped Reds first baseman Joey Votto of his pop, but he still reaches base at an unbelievable .474 clip. Shortstop Zack Cozart and second baseman Brandon Phillips make it look easy defensively. Scott Rolen, 37, is expected to start at third, but Todd Frazier is a Rookie of the Year candidate and could see time at either corner.
OUTFIELD: Angel Pagan had a huge year out of the leadoff spot. Thanks to a July trade, right fielder Hunter Pence hasn't played the Reds this season. He joked that he has something special in store for them, but Pence knows he needs to provide some serious production out of the No. 5 hole in the postseason, when teams likely won't let Posey beat them. Against the Reds' righties, defensive whiz Gregor Blanco figures to start every game in left field.
Jay Bruce's defensive blunder led directly to a Giants' walk-off victory in July, but when he's hot, Bruce (34 homers, 99 RBIs) can put the lineup on his back. Ryan Ludwick provides power (26 homers), and center fielder Drew Stubbs brings speed (30 stolen bases) and defense.
CATCHER: With just over 1,100 career at-bats, Posey already has a Rookie of the Year award, World Series trophy and batting title. He could soon add an MVP trophy, but he might give up his catcher's gear for certain postseason games. Rookie Hector Sanchez was a surprise roster addition out of camp and formed a strong rapport with Tim Lincecum during the right-hander's second-half turnaround.
Ryan Hanigan is unknown on a national level, but he has had a huge hand in the Reds' success. Hanigan threw out 48.5 percent of attempted base stealers, the best mark in the big leagues.
STARTING PITCHING: Bochy expresses confidence in all five of his guys, but the delay in naming No. 3 and No. 4 starters shows how muddled the postseason picture has become. Matt Cain, who has never given up a postseason run, and Madison Bumgarner are locked into starts at AT&T Park, where both have been dominant. Cain has a perfect game on his resume; Bumgarner one-hit the Reds two weeks later. Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Lincecum all are in consideration for a postseason start, and all will be available out of the bullpen for the first two games.
Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78 ERA) put it all together this season while vying for the Cy Young Award. Veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo takes the ball in Game 2, and Giants antagonist Mat Latos is slated for Game 3 in Cincinnati. Latos always has stepped it up when he sees orange and black. He allowed just six hits in 16 innings against the Giants this season.
BULLPEN: The Giants walk a fine line with their "closer by committee," but Sergio Romo (1.79 ERA), Javier Lopez (2.50), Jeremy Affeldt (2.70) and Santiago Casilla (2.84) make it work. This bullpen is built to mix and match while holding a lead for two to three innings; anything longer than that could be trouble.
Anchored by Aroldis Chapman and his fastball that has reached 105 mph, the Reds led the majors in bullpen ERA (2.65) and the National League in batting average against (.219). Left-hander Sean Marshall (2.51 ERA) and former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton (2.82) get the ball to Chapman.
BENCH: The only National League team with fewer pinch-hit at-bats than the Giants was the Reds. San Francisco's Joaquin Arias and Xavier Nady have made their share of starts but likely now are options off the bench. Sanchez has earned Bochy's trust and might be his first option. If Frazier doesn't start, he's a dangerous late-innings weapon for the Reds. The rookie hit .273 with 19 homers.
MANAGER: Bochy, the Giants manager since 2007, and Baker, the manager from 1993 to 2002, have been close for years. The two exchanged pleasantries Thursday at AT&T Park, and Bochy repeatedly expressed concern after Baker suffered a ministroke last month. Baker's final game as Giants manager came 10 years ago, when they lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Anaheim Angels. He hasn't been that far since. Bochy pushed all the right buttons in the 2010 postseason and for much of this regular season. Can he do it again?
INTANGIBLES: The Giants could have folded their tent several times this season; instead they ran away with the division title. No team in baseball has overcome a greater variety of problems, but the Giants came together after what looked to be the final straw -- Melky Cabrera's suspension. They've played loose the entire second half, and with a clubhouse full of past champions, this team knows exactly how to handle October.
Reds pitcher Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter last Friday and afterward complained that nobody is paying attention to the season the Reds have had. The baseball world is watching now.
-- ALEX PAVLOVIC