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Reds beat Giants 5-2 in Game 1 of NLDS

The Reds lost their starting pitcher early, but their bullpen held on while their hitters clouted a couple of early home runs.

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Reds up 5-1 in the 9th, need only 3 more outs

In the ninth inning, the Cincinnati Reds added a couple of insurance runs and head to the bottom of the ninth with a 5-1 lead over the Giants in Game 1 of their National League Division Series.

With Santiago Casilla in the game for the Giants, Scott Rolen led off the ninth and struck out. But Ryan Hanigan singled to center and, after another strikeout, pinch-hitter Xavier Paul lifted a pop fly into no-man's land in shallow right-center field and nobody could quite get there in time. That brought up Brandon Phillips, who'd gotten the scoring started with his two-run homer in the third inning, with runners on first and third. And Phillips knocked home Hanigan with a liner into right field, Paul stopping at second. Two wild pitches later, though, Paul sprinted home to make it 5-1.

Casilla finally struck out Zack Cozart, but not nearly in time.

So the Giants are down four runs, and they've got only outs left with Aroldis Chapman on the mound to finish them off.


Giants still down 3-1 heading to bottom of 8th

This one became a battle of the bullpens a lot sooner than expected, and it's not a battle the Giants wanted to fight. After all, they had their No. 1 starter and ... who knew? Maybe the Giants could build a big league while Matt Cain was pitching seven or eight shutout innings?

But of course that didn't happen, as Cain lasted only five innings. And you don't want to be losing 3-1 to the Reds in the late innings, because a) generally speaking, their bullpen finished the season with a 2.56 ERA, tops in the National League, and b) specifically, closer Aroldis Chapman is really tough, since you can't hit what you can't see.

The Giants do have two more chances, though. In the top of the eighth, Jeremy Affeldt escaped a jam when Jay Bruce grounded out with a couple of runners aboard.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Giants couldn't do anything with Reds lefty Sean Marshall. In the eighth, they'll get a shot at righty Jonathan Broxton. And if that doesn't work out ... yeah. The Cuban Missile. Big fun.


Buster Posey homers, Reds hold on to 3-1 lead

The Giants looked like a team that was going to be shut out, featuring a mixture of bad luck and bad at-bats throughout Game 1 of the NLDS. In the bottom of the sixth inning, though, Buster Posey sat on a Mat Latos offspeed pitch early in the at-bat:

The home run cut the deficit to 3-1, which is certainly striking distance for most teams in most circumstances. However, the Giants don't hit a lot of home runs, and the Reds' bullpen is a multi-headed monster. If the Giants are going to come back, it'll be something that's earned. Unless there are a bunch of singles and a couple of blown calls. I guess two runs isn't that much.

It seems like it now, though, as Mat Latos pitched four solid innings. Though he wasn't as sharp has he was during the second half of the season, Latos held the Giants to just a run and four hits.


Five innings in the book, still Reds 3, Giants 0

Five innings and 75 pitches. That's how long Giants ace Matt Cain lasted in Game 1 of his club's Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Cain wasn't terrible, but he did give up three runs: the first two coming on Brandon Phillips' two-run homer, the third on Jay Bruce's mammoth solo blast. So with the Giants down 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth and Cain due to lead off, manager Bruce Bochy pulled the plug, replacing Cain with pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff.

Huff, who batted just .192 in 78 at-bats all season, lifted an easy fly to center field. Angel Pagan followed with a single to left, though. But Marco Scutaro hit into a fielder's choice, and Pablo Sandoval hit a higher hopper to Phillips, who made a fancy bare-handed grab before throwing Panda out.

So after five innings, the Reds own a 3-0 lead. It's not a huge lead, but on the other hand Cincinnati's got a fantastic bullpen, capped by Aroldis Chapman. It's not late, exactly. But it's getting there.


Reds take 3-0 lead on Jay Bruce blast

Matt Cain is a good pitcher, but he has a weakness: giving up home runs to the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed four in 13 innings during two regular-season contests against the Reds, and in Game 1 of the NLDS, Cain has allowed two booming home runs. Jay Bruce hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth, putting the Reds up 3-0.

After missing with a first-pitch change-up, Cain came back with a change-up that caught a little too much of the plate with the second pitch. Bruce hit it into the right-center field power alley -- 420 feet at its deepest, with a 24-foot high wall. It cleared the wall easily.

The Giants will have to come back against their arch-nemesis Mat Latos, whom they know from his years in San Diego, and who owns the second-lowest career ERA at AT&T Park, behind only Clayton Kershaw. He also looks like a thumb with bleached hair.


Reds up 2-0 on Brandon Phillips' two-run homer

Entering Game 1 of the Giants' Division Series against the Reds, ace Matt Cain had started three postseason games in his career and allowed the grand total of one run ... and that was unearned. Saturday night, Cain ran his no-earnies streak to 23⅔ innings with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Homer Bailey in the third inning.

But, you know, Homer Bailey's actually a pitcher. Before Bailey, Drew Stubbs had singled. After Bailey, Brandon Phillips hit a hanging curveball a long way.


Cain's troubles continued. He hit Zack Cozart with a pitch, and walked Joey Votto. That brought a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti, while ESPN Radio's Rick Sutcliffe wondered if Cain might be joining Johnny Cueto on the Injured List.

Not to worry. Ryan Ludwick slapped Cain's third pitch to shortstop, who started an easy double play.

Still, the Reds have grabbed a two-run lead and Mat Latos is now on the hill for Cincinnati.


Giants load bases in 2nd, Cain lines out to end it

This isn't exactly the way it was supposed to go.

Sure, two scoreless innings isn't any surprise. Not with Johnny Cueto starting for the Reds and Matt Cain starting for the Giants. But Cueto had to retire in the first inning with back spasms. Instead of going with one of his starting pitchers, Reds manager Dusty Baker brought in relief pitcher Sam LeCure.

LeCure got out of the first inning in fine order, but ran into serious trouble in the second. With two outs, LeCure walked Brandon Belt. Gregor Blanco drove a double into left-center field, but Belt had to stop on third. With Cain in the on-deck circle, Baker ordered LeCure to intentionally walk weak-hitting Brandon Crawford to load the bases.

Meanwhile, up in the ESPN Radio booth, Rick Sutcliffe was screaming for Baker to replace LeCure with Mat Latos, who apparently was ready to go. But Baker stuck with LeCure, and was "rewarded" when Cain drove the first pitch he saw on a line ... right to Jay Bruce in right field. Crisis averted.

That will do it for LeCure, though, as Latos will take over in the bottom of the third.


Brandon Belt goes into stands for circus catch

Brandon Belt started only 102 games at first base for the San Francisco Giants this season, but according to the numbers he ranked as one of the National League's best-fielding first basemen. And in the first inning of the first inning of the Giants' Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, "Baby Giraffe" turned in what's probably the best play of his professional career.

Brandon Phillips led off the game against Giants ace Matt Cain, and lifted an easy fly to center field. Next, Zack Cozart sent a high foul into the Bay Area sky and ... well, see for yourself what happened next:


It might not have been a terribly important play; Cozart was probably going to make an out anyway, and Cain struck out Joey Votto to cap his scoreless first inning. But that might be the most impressive clip we see all month. I just can't figure out why nobody had the good sense to cushion Brandon Belt's fall. He was okay though!


Brandon Phillips leads off Game 1 for Reds

If you were looking for Joey Votto leading off because you're a mad sabermetrician, maybe next time. Dusty Baker's lineup is pretty close to the one with which he finished the season, including Brandon Phillips hitting leadoff:

1. Brandon Phillips - 2B
2. Zack Cozart - SS
3. Joey Votto - 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick - LF
5. Jay Bruce - RF
6. Scott Rolen - 3B
7. Ryan Hanigan - C
8. Drew Stubbs - CF
9. Johnny Cueto - P

The Reds will face Matt Cain, who loves pitching at AT&T Park, which puts him in the strange subset of baseball players known as "pitchers." The Reds also do a good job going left-right-left-right in the middle of their order, though the Giants have three lefties in their pen (four, if you include Barry Zito), so they probably won't be shy about mixing and matching in the late innings.


Giants set Game 1 lineup

The San Francisco Giants tend to hit lefties a little better than right-handers, but there aren't as many chances for surprises when they face righties. Manager Bruce Bochy promised the regular lineup, and he wasn't joshing us.

1. Angel Pagan# - CF
2. Marco Scutaro - 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval# - 3B
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Hunter Pence - RF
6. Brandon Belt* - 1B
7. Gregor Blanco* - LF
8. Brandon Crawford* - SS
9. Matt Cain - P

There are three lefties at the bottom of the lineup, but at least one of them would be removed for a pinch-hitter against someone like Sean Marshall in the late innings, not that Marshall cares. The default right-handed bat to replace Blanco is Xavier Nady, and the default bat to replace Crawford is Joaquin Arias, though Ryan Theriot also has experience at short, which means almost as much as being good at it, which he isn't.

Reminder: Last year's eventual World Series Champions started the season with Theriot as their everyday shortstop. Remember that when you're making your preseason predictions for the rest of your life.

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