Brandon Phillips, sterling relief pace Reds' 5-2 win over Giants in Game 1

Jeff Gross - Getty Images

Sometimes the games go strictly according to the chalk. For example, Saturday's Division Series matinée between the A's and the Tigers; Oakland's Jarrod Parker pitched well, but Detroit's Justin Verlander pitched better.

Saturday night's game wasn't one of those. The chalk said fantastic pitchers duel, Johnny Cueto vs. Matt Cain.

The chalk wasn't any good.

Cincinnati's Cueto reportedly suffered back spasms before the game; with his eighth pitch in the first inning, he was forced to leave the proceedings. Reliever Sam LeCure took over for Cueto, and also pitched the second frame before getting replaced by Mat Latos, making the first relief appearance of his career. Cueto and LeCure didn't give up any runs in their two innings; Latos gave up one in his four innings, coming on Buster Posey's homer in the sixth.

Meanwhile, strange things were happening to Matt Cain, who entered the contest having made three postseason starts in his career without allowing an earned run. Yeah: 0.00 ERA. In the third inning with a runner aboard, though, Cain hung a curveball and this happened:


In case you can't guess from that, Phillilps launched a two-run homer over the left-field fence.

Hey, it happens. But in the very next inning, Jay Bruce yanked one of Cain's change-ups 436 feet to give the Reds a 3-0 lead. It was just the second time in the last two years that Cain had given up two home runs in a home game; the other time was this summer, also against the Reds (that one was significantly more bizarre, though, as the hitters were shortstop Zack Cozart and pitcher Mike Leake).

With the Giants down 3-0 in the sixth, Cain got lifted for a pinch-hitter despite having thrown only 75 pitches. His replacement on the mound, unheralded George Kontos, chipped in with a couple of scoreless innings. Meanwhile, the Giants finally got on the board when Posey homered.

But that single run was all they would get. Lefty Sean Marshall blanked them in the seventh, and righty Jonathan Broxton wriggled out of a two-out jam in the eighth by striking out Gregor Blanco with a full-count fastball that just clipped the corner of the strike zone. And in the ninth, of course, Aroldis Chapman took over. And it wasn't even a save situation, as the Reds made it 5-1 in the ninth with a couple of runs of Santiago Casilla, one of them scoring when Phillips laced an RBI single.

When Chapman finally took the mound in his non-save situation, he was awfully shaky. Pinch-hitter Joaquin Arias led off with a single, and pinch-hitter Xavier Nady walked on four pitches, none of them particularly close to the strike zone. That brought a visit from Dusty Baker, which seemed to settle Chapman, who retired Angel Pagan on a pop-up.

But then Chapman walked Marco Scutaro on a full-count slider, and things started to seem serious! Glances were exchanged! Phone calls made! Text messages texted! Bullpens bullpened!

That's when Chapman just started throwing fastballs. First to Pablo Sandoval, who popped to Phillips. And then to Buster Posey; one of those found its way to the backstop, with all three runners moving up one base. Ultimately, though, Chapman's fastball was too much for Posey, who struck out on a high one. It seemed to take forever. But it was over: Reds 5, Giants 2.

In fairness to the Giants, they hit in some awfully tough luck. In the fourth, Brandon Belt -- who made a phenomenal defensive play (video) in the first inning -- sent a rocket toward the right-field corner, only to see Joey Votto make a leaping grab and double off a baserunner. In the sixth, Belt was victimized again when left fielder Ryan Ludwick made a diving catch. In the seventh, Marco Scutaro drove a liner into deep left, where Ludwick barely made the play. And in the eighth, Pablo Sandoval led off with a liner directly at shortstop Zack Cozart.

Not to make excuses or anything. It was just one of those games, and there are a lot of them, that easily could have gone the other way.

With Latos on the shelf for a while, the Reds are reportedly hoping that Cueto can start Game 3, in Cincinnati next week. If Cueto can't pitch, though, they'll presumably have the option of replacing him on the roster with No. 5 starter Mike Leake.

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