No style points, but Giants get win
CINCINNATI -- The Giants hardly resemble a club that scored more than 700 runs this season and five per game over the season's final month. In three games against the Reds, in fact, they've plated only four in total, doing so in such non-traditional ways that only one has come home via the most likely of suspects, a base hit.
So in addition to a run-scoring wild pitch on Saturday night, the Giants expanded their repertoire in Tuesday's Game 3 by assembling a hit by pitch-walk-sacrifice bunt-sacrifice fly sequence that may impress the Olympic judges for its degree of difficulty and technical merit scores but fail to register much by way of a mark in presentation.
They generated that run amidst seven innings of near invincibility from Reds starter Homer Bailey, who became only the fourth pitcher in postseason history to throw at least seven innings while striking out at least 10 and allowing only one hit and no more than one run.
San Francisco's second run -- the game-winner -- also was more functional than artistic. Two singles by Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, hobbled by a cramping calf, led off the top of the 10th. Those station-to-station hits were followed by two strikeouts and, importantly, a passed ball to advance the runners before Joaquin Arias bounded a ball toward third base where eight-time Gold Glove winner Scott Rolen couldn't handle the tricky hop, allowing the game-winning run to score on an error that was as much tough play as defensive lapse.
"I think we have to be really happy that we came away with this win tonight because we didn't swing the bats very well at all," Giants catcher Buster Posey said.
In other words, the Giants have neglected to use only catcher's interference and the kitchen sink as they beat the Reds 2-1 to prolong the NLDS another day even though the Giants have led for only one of this series' 28 innings. Only seven teams have ever rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five series and only one, the 2001 Yankees, lost those first two games at home.
"There is no lack of belief on this team," San Francisco closer Sergio Romo said.
The postseason is about winning by any means necessary. This isn't the time for a team to dwell on its run differential (-11) or team batting average (.126) and only to celebrate their great escape: the Giants are only the fifth team -- and the first since the Braves in 1999's NLCS Game 3 -- to win a playoff game in which it had three or fewer hits and none of them went for extra bases.
Though the Giants benefit from the retention of many players from their 2010 World Series title team, this October is already incomparable. Two years ago they won Game 1 in all three rounds of the playoffs, and they never faced an elimination game before advancing.
And now Cincinnati is in a vulnerable spot in its rotation. The Giants are sending Barry Zito to the mound, but the Reds -- as of 19 hours before Game 4 -- don't know who's starting.
"As of right now we're not sure yet," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We're going to go in and discuss it and find out all the parties involved and then try to come up with a solution tonight. I mean, I wish I had an answer, but I don't."
Ace Johnny Cueto left Game 1 after only eight pitches with what is now being called an oblique injury, eliminating him as an option for Game 4 but removing him for the NLDS roster means losing him for the NLCS too, which the Reds aren't yet sure they want to do. So that leaves either Mat Latos, who threw four innings of relief on Saturday on three days' rest and now could make a start on three days' rest, or Mike Leake, who'd only be available by removing Cueto from the roster.
Bailey generated 10 swings and misses, which is not an outlandish number, but Giants hitters also fouled off 26 of his pitches, displaying an inability to hit the ball squarely. In other words, on 41 percent of Bailey's 88 pitches, the Giants swung and failed to put the ball in play.
Bailey worked from ahead in the count almost all day. Bailey faced 24 Giants hitters and, of the 18 that hung around long enough for the count to reach either two balls or two strikes, 16 times the count ledger was in his favor, reaching two strikes first. That's important because major league hitters batted .158 this year when putting the ball in play on 0-2 or 1-2 counts, whereas they batted .341 when putting the ball in play on 2-0 or 2-1 counts.
Bochy emptied his bench of all his pinch-hitting options, except for his back-up catcher, and they went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. The moves were understandable given the bottom of his lineup's poor production this series -- the Nos. 5 through 9 spots entered the day entered the day 3-for-30 and went 1-for-18 on Tuesday -- but those lineup machinations nearly backfired when Pence cramped up, and Bochy had no pinch-runner or defensive replacement option.
Their postseason hallmark continues to be the pitching. Posey called their staff effort "outstanding." Starter Ryan Vogelsong allowed three hits and a run in the first inning but settled down, not yielding another base hit in innings two through five, before he was replaced.
"With this team," Vogelsong said of the Reds, "good pitches aren't always outs. I knew that my stuff was good. I just needed to keep throwing the ball the way I was throwing, and things were going to work out."
Cincinnati didn't score again, with the Giants' bullpen brigade of Jeremy Affeldt (two innings), Santiago Casilla (2/3 inning), Javier Lopez (1/3 inning) and Romo (two innings) finishing out the string while allowing only one walk and one infield single in five shutout innings.
"We are a gritty and grinding team," Romo said. "We play for the guy next to us, not for ourselves, the greater good."
The Giants have earned fewer style points than they've scored runs, but they've grinded out another day and another game in an improbable way.