SAN FRANCISCO -- Everyone knows how important Game 1 is in a five-game series. After all, 72 percent of the time, the team that wins Game 1 has won the series.In the 60 Division Series in the Wild Card era, only 17 teams have bucked the numbers to come back and advance. The trend of Game 1 importance is even more lopsided in the National League, where Game 1 winners have won 27 of 30 series. Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his club are well aware of those numbers and understand how pivotal it would be to win Thursday's series opener. "We look at this as a big game and we've been saying that about a lot of our games, but when you're in a best-out-of-five, there's no getting around it: The first game's important," Bochy said. "It's not do-or-die, but it does make things easier if you can win the first game. Both sides I'm sure feel the same, but we're at home so we're going to be doing all we can to win this game. "We know how important it is here in the short series. Anytime you're in a best-of-five, they're all big, but the first one certainly is."
Rowand begins Game 1 vs. Braves on bench
SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite Aaron Rowand's success against Braves Game 1 starter Derek Lowe, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he didn't give much thought to starting the struggling outfielder in Thursday's opener of the National League Division Series.As expected, Andres Torres started in center and Cody Ross was in right. "I know Aaron has numbers, but Aaron hasn't gotten his at-bats," Bochy said. "It's tough for a guy coming off the bench. In his last at-bat he did hit a home run for us, but Torres is going out there every day and Ross has been swinging well." Rowand entered Thursday hitting .478 (11-for-23) against Lowe in his 10-year career. Rowand's numbers against Lowe and Game 3 starter Tim Hudson (.381, 8-for-21), as well as his postseason experience, were a key reason Bochy decided to have Rowand on the 25-man NLDS roster despite him going through the worst season of his career. Although Rowand didn't start, Bochy said he feels as though the Giants are a better team with Rowand on the roster, especially against pitchers such as Lowe. "It's nice to have a player like Aaron Rowand, who does have numbers off him, if I need him off the bench," Bochy said.
Ross brings key experience vs. Braves
SAN FRANCISCO -- Cody Ross' bat, defense and speed make him a valuable member of the Giants' National League Division Series roster, but another key aspect in the outfielder's importance to San Francisco is his familiarity with the NL East.Ross, who was awarded to the Giants on a waiver claim on Aug. 22, spent 2006-10 with Florida and, because of the unbalanced schedule, has played against the Braves 61 times. In his career, Ross has batted .279 (53-for-190) with eight home runs and 33 RBIs vs. the Braves. He also has knocked out 15 doubles against Atlanta, his most against any club. More specifically, Ross has had mild success against Game 1 starter Derek Lowe (.300, 3-for-10). However, Ross is hitless in seven at-bats against Game 2 starter Tommy Hanson and is only 2-for-15 against Game 3 starter Tim Hudson. Despite some sporadic numbers against Atlanta's top pitchers, Ross still feels like he can help out his teammates when it comes to talking about approaches. "I think I can lend a hand when it comes to telling guys what pitches certain guys are trying to do, tendencies, both against them and the Phillies," Ross said. "I've played against both of them for four, five years now and I know all those pitchers over there and what they're trying to do. "If I can just lend a hand and somebody has questions about how they're trying to approach them, I think that's pretty good."
At 26 years and 114 days, Game 1 starter Tim Lincecum is the fourth-youngest Giants pitcher to start Game 1 of a playoff series. Jeff Tesreau (24 years, 217 days) was the youngest, starting Game 1 of the 1912 World Series. ... Although Lincecum could potentially get a start in Game 4 if the Giants are down, 2-1, Bochy said Thursday it will not affect how he uses Lincecum in Game 1. "Not at all," Bochy said. "It will not change my thinking in how I use him. We'll do all we can to win a ballgame today."
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.