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Giants beat Reds 8-3, tie series 2-2

Angel Pagan homered twice for the Giants, Pablo Sandoval hit a monster dinger, and Tim Lincecum threw 4⅓ innings of outstanding relief to send the series to a decisive Game 5.

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Giants top Reds 8-3 to force decisive Game 5

Thanks for some sterling relief work from Tim Lincecum (yes, Tim Lincecum), the San Francisco Giants have a solid shot at winning their Division Series despite losing the first two games at home.


Lincecum's Giants still lead Reds 8-3 after 8

Tim Lincecum just keeps on pitching.

Lincecum entered Game 4 with two outs in the fourth inning. Since then, he's pitched 4⅓ innings, allowing just one run while striking out six Cincinnati Reds. Lincecum had retired seven straight Cincinnati Reds before Dioner Navarro dropped a broken-bat bloop single into center field.

But the Giants' right-hander got Drew Stubbs on a little broken-bat "liner" (for lack of a better word) and he struck out pinch-hitter Chris Heisey to end the inning.

There was a moment of light comedy in there, though, when Lincecum threw a pickoff throw to first base even though the closest uniformed person to the base was first-base coach Billy Hatcher. Lincecum got the error as Navarro moved to second base, but of course that was moot.

After eight innings, it's still Giants 8, Reds 3.


Pablo Sandoval hates a specific baseball

The Giants weren't hitting for the first three games of the series, and one of the big reasons for that was Pablo Sandoval wasn't hitting. The fluffy third baseman was 2-for-13 in the NLDS coming into Game 4. That's nothing but small-sample size working -- maybe some overaggressiveness, too -- but he's still one of the reasons they weren't scoring.

Weren't, as in the past tense. Because Pablo Sandoval took his pandanger out on Jose Arredondo in the top of the seventh inning:

Goodness. That shot put the Giants up 8-3, and Arredondo left to a chorus of Cincinnati boos, which seems a little much ... but he certainly didn't do well out there. He allowed two doubles and a homer -- as many extra-base hits as the Giants had in the first three games combined.

On the other side, middle reliever Tim Lincecum performed quite well. In the bottom of the seventh, he struck out Joey Votto looking and Jay Bruce swinging, going 3⅓, striking out four, and allowing just one run.


Reds score in 6th, still trail Giants 5-3

Drew Stubbs led off the bottom of the sixth, and drove Tim Lincecum's second pitch down the left-field line, just fair, for a double.

With the pitcher's spot due next, Dusty Baker deployed pinch "hitter" Miguel Cairo, who's 38 years old and batted .187 during the regular season. Cairo checked his swing on a fastball and hit a little dribbler toward third base. It didn't dribble enough for Cairo to reach first base safely, but it dribbled enough for Stubbs to take third. Which proved important a moment later when Brandon Phillips hit a fly to right field, deep enough for Stubbs to trot home.

It took 10 pitches, but Lincecum finally finished off Zack Cozart to end the inning. The Giants are still ahead, but now the Reds are just a bloop and a blast away from tying Game 4.

Giants 5, Reds 3


Giants knock out Mike Leake, now lead 5-2 in 5th

The Giants have used four pitchers. The Reds have used two pitchers. So how do the Giants have a two-run lead over the Reds in the bottom of the fifth inning? It's like Joaquin Andujar said: youneverknow.

With Mat Latos pressed into duty in Game 1 because of Johnny Cueto's first-inning injury, Mike Leake was pressed into starting duties for the Reds in Game 4. But Angel Pagan led off the game with a home run, and Gregor Blanco hit a two-run shot off Leake in the second inning. That made it 3-1, but Ryan Ludwick narrowed the gap with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the third.

Leake couldn't survive the fifth inning, though. Joaquin Arias led off with a double to left, and came around to score when Pagan doubled to right center. After Marco Scutaro sacrificed Pagan to third, Dusty Baker replaced Leake with Sam Lecure. His first pitch to Pablo Sandoval was hit plenty far enough into center field for a sacrifice fly, with Pagan sprinting home.

LeCure retired Buster Posey to end the half-inning, but the Giants are now ahead of the Reds, 5-2.


Ryan Ludwick crushes homer, Giants still lead 3-2

In 2010, the San Diego Padres traded for Ryan Ludwick at the trading deadline. They were a game-and-a-half up in the division, and Ludwick was hitting .281/.343/.484 for the Cardinals. After the trade, Ludwick hit .211/.301/.330, and the Padres went 30-30, losing the division by two games.

In a way, Ludwick was partially responsible for the Giants winning the West, which would put them in line for their first World Series title in San Francisco.

So he's making up for lost time. If the Reds hang on to their series lead and advance to the NLCS, Ludwick will likely get some consideration for the series MVP. Actually, I don't think they have division-series MVPs. But they should. And Ludwick would have a shot because he keeps doing stuff like this:

After the third-inning homer, Zito allowed a two-out walk, and that was it for him. Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled Zito, who allowed eight runners, and brought in reliever George Kontos, who got a fly ball to end the inning.


Quick note on Hector Sanchez

He is a, uh, work in progress.

The 22-year-old catcher somehow became the sort-of-personal catcher for both Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum this year, even though he isn't good at framing pitches or "catching." Yet. He's young. Give him time. But that time probably shouldn't be in an elimination game. On an 0-2 count with two outs, Barry Zito dropped in a nasty curve to Zack Cozart:

If it looks a little low to you, that's probably because of how Hector Sanchez caught it. The pitch was actually a clear strike:


That'd be the green "3" obscured by the red "1."

When Bruce Bochy took Brandon Belt out and put Posey at first, he weakened the defense at two positions and the offense at one. But Sanchez singled ahead of Gregor Blanco's homer, and the Cozart call didn't hurt -- after Cozart singled, Joey Votto flew out to end the inning. So to this point, Bochy's looking like he's coming out ahead, even if he didn't gamble wisely.


Gregor Blanco clubs homer, Giants up 3-1

This is normally a good spot to make a joke at the Giants' expense. Gregor Blanco hit a two-run home run off Mike Leake in the top of the second inning, giving the Giants a 3-1 lead:

So it'd be a perfect time to suggest they haven't been doing this before because they didn't want to climb the fence and get the ball back from Mr. McGurt's yard.

Because they thought those were the rules and ... never mind.

Point being, the Giants weren't doing any hitting in the first three games of this series, but they are so far in Game 4.

Except that'd be a joke that paid to much attention to the small sample of a short series. Throughout the regular season, the Giants were actually the second-best in baseball at scoring runs on the road. They were just below the league-average in home runs on the road, but they were dead last in homers at AT&T Park with 31, just 107 behind the Yankees.

The Giants can score on the road. One of their problems is the other teams have been able to score on the road against them, too. So with Barry Zito on the mound and looking shaky, this could be one of those games.


Angel Pagan hits leadoff HR

Wednesday afternoon, the Giants are getting right to work against the Reds. Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan sent the second pitch of the game into the seats to give San Francisco the early lead over the Reds in Game 4:


The Giants then continued to attack Reds starter Mike Leake early in the count, with Marco Scutaro flying out on the second pitch and Pablo Sandoval knocking a double on a 1-0 count. After advancing to third, Sandoval was stranded after Hunter Pence struck out on three pitches.

In the bottom half of the first, Giants starter Barry Zito made his first postseason appearance since 2006. Zito finished the regular season strong, having tacked up a 3.03 ERA through 35.2 innings in September.

After retiring the first two Reds and letting up a single to Joey Votto, Zito suddenly lost control. He walked Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce, having fallen behind 3-0 in the count to both men, and then walked Todd Frazier on five pitches to force in a run. Zito escaped after striking out Dioner Navarro, but the 13-year veteran has 30 pitches to his name after just one inning.

As we head to the second, the Giants and Reds are knotted at 1.


Rookie Todd Frazier busts into Reds' Game 4 lineup

Make an error in the 10th inning, get yanked from the next game's lineup.

That's what happened to Scott Rolen, anyway. Here is Reds manager Dusty Baker's lineup for Game 4 of their Division Series against the Giants:

2. Zack Cozart - SS
3. Joey Votto* - 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick (R) LF
5. Jay Bruce* - RF
6. Todd Frazier - 3B
8. Drew Stubbs - CF
9. Mike Leake - P

Scott Rolen made that big error in Game 3, but that's not really why Dusty Baker has replaced him with Todd Frazier in Game 4. It's probably just that Frazier's a really good hitter and needs to start a game every so often.

The other change from Game 3 is at catcher, where switch-hitting Dioner Navarro fills in for Ryan Hanigan, probably just to give Hanigan a day off, since no advantage is gained against Giants starter Barry Zito, a left-hander.
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