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San Francisco Giants Eliminate Cincinnati Reds, Make History

Aaron Fischman |
October 12, 2012 | 12:27 a.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor


San Francisco catcher Buster Posey hit two NLDS home runs, including a Game 5 grand slam. (Chase N/Wikimedia Commons)
San Francisco catcher Buster Posey hit two NLDS home runs, including a Game 5 grand slam. (Chase N/Wikimedia Commons)
The San Francisco Giants eliminated the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday in a National League divisional series that made history. Never before had an NLDS witnessed a team successfully coming back from an 0-2 deficit to earn a spot in the NLCS.

Game 1 began horrendously for the NL Central-winning Reds. The team’s unquestioned ace, Johnny Cueto, was removed from the game just eight pitches in after he pulled muscles in his side. After tests were run, the team learned the “mild oblique strain” would keep Cueto out for the series, as well as the NLCS should the team advance past the Giants. In an effort to avoid disrupting the starting rotation, Reds skipper Dusty Baker opted to go with a series of relievers, along with starter Mat Latos for no more than four innings. The move paid dividends, as the Reds held the Giants to two runs on seven hits en route to a Game 1 road victory. 

The following day, Cincinnati dominated all aspects of the game. Bronson Arroyo turned in a beautiful one-hit, no-run performance in a game in which the Giants produced a total of two hits. Offensively, the Reds blasted the Giants for nine runs, as Madison Bumgarner couldn’t even get out of the fifth inning.

Through two games, the Reds led the series two games to none after doing all of the damage on the road. What should have been the easy part awaited. The Reds would have three home games, if they needed that many. All they would need to do is win one game. Just one. 

Despite the Giants’ mere three hits, they were able to win Game 3 thanks to two hits to begin the 10th inning and a two-out error by Scott Rolen. It wasn’t as if the Reds lit it up, offensively, as they only recorded four hits, themselves. Homer Bailey continued his stellar pitching, Ryan Vogelsong did the same and each bullpen did its job for the most part. The Reds would have entered the bottom of the 10th with a tie score had Rolen not made the throwing error, but to their credit, the Giants forced the action with Buster Posey and Hunter Pence singles. The Reds were retired in order in the bottom half of the 10th.    

In Games 2 and 3, the Giants combined to produce five hits, but it didn’t matter. San Francisco was still alive and moving on to Game 4.

San Francisco’s bats finally awoke from their slumber in Game 4. In fact, both Barry Zito and Mike Leake were bounced from the game early. The highly paid southpaw was taken out in the third inning, but Giants relievers took care of the rest, including a rare, but successful relief appearance from Tim Lincecum. The Freak threw 4.1 innings of one-run, two-hit ball. The normally power-starved San Francisco lineup gave its pitchers more than enough support, as it blasted three home runs. 

With the series tied at two games apiece, even with the final game being played in Cincinnati, the Giants probably had the edge going in. San Francisco ace Matt Cain was pitching, and the Giants finally seemed to possess confidence in their offense. For the first four innings, both teams were held scoreless. Then, in the top of the fifth all hell broke loose. After five of the inning’s first six batters reached base, Posey stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. Latos left the pitch over the middle of the plate, Posey smash the ball over the left-field wall and just like that, the score went from 2-0 to 6-0. 

Dominant closer Aroldis Chapman was rendered a non-factor in the series. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Dominant closer Aroldis Chapman was rendered a non-factor in the series. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
To me, the game felt over after Posey’s grand slam, but ample time remained. The Reds still had five more innings to cut into the six-run deficit and save their season. In the bottom of the fifth and sixth, the Reds scored a total of three runs to cut the deficit in half. Over the next two innings, Cincinnati recorded four more hits, but was unable to translate those into any runs.

It was bottom of the ninth and the home team trailed, 6-3. After Brandon Phillips fouled out, three straight runners reached base via a walk and two singles. With the second single scoring Zack Cozart, the Reds trailed by two runs. More important, they trailed by two runs with two runners on. The potential winning run came to the plate in the form of Jay Bruce.

What an exciting scenario! The Giants lead by two. Because the game is being played in Cincinnati, one swing of the back could eliminate the Giants and vault the Reds into the NLCS. First, Bruce, who hit 34 home runs during the regular season, had the opportunity to win it (or at least extend the game with a base-hit). Bruce turned in a very solid at bat, but ultimately fell short after skying the 12th pitch to left field for the second out of the inning. Sergio Romo then struck out Rolen to end the game and the series.

Just like that, a 2-0 lead turned into a series defeat. After a one-year playoff hiatus, it was the Reds’ second NLDS playoff exit in the past three years. One would have to go back to 1995 to find the last year the Reds actually won a postseason series. 

The Reds may have grown overconfident, as they led two games to none with the remainder of the series to be played in their home park. It’s possible, but the Giants certainly earned the series victory. After the Giants allowed the Reds to hit .353 (6-17) with runners in scoring position in Cincinnati’s two road wins, San Francisco pitching held Cincinnati to a lowly .125 (3-24) over its final three home losses. Although 2010 MVP Joey Votto hit .389 in the series, the Giants miraculously prevented him from recording a single RBI. Aroldis Chapman, one of the best closers in the majors, wasn't presented with any save opportunities, either.

San Francisco, who during the regular season hit the fewest home runs of any playoff team since the 1988 Dodgers, managed to hit five home runs in the series (the same number as the Reds). Over the course of the season, the Giants hit 103 homers. To put that into better perspective, the Reds hit 69 more home runs than the Giants and still only ranked 11th in the major leagues.  

The resilient Giants kept plugging away after dropping the first two at home and now find themselves eight wins away from their second World Series title in three years. San Francisco may or may not earn the home-field advantage depending on whether the Cardinals or Nationals win Game 5. Either way, the Giants come into the NLCS with three consecutive wins, fairly strong pitching and a catcher who has a penchant for timely hits.

Reach Senior Sports Editor Aaron Fischman here or follow him on Twitter.



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