There are several story lines to follow in the National League Division Series featuring the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. However, there isn’t one easy overarching narrative to bring us all together in the way that television broadcasters like. There isn’t a clear underdog or a franchise that has pulled itself out of talent obscurity to unexpectedly find success.
Both these teams were among the favorites at the beginning of the season to win their respective divisions, and while other post season clubs were fooling around during the last week of the regular season schedule, the Giants and Reds were only worried about not coming under fire from the commissioner’s office for resting its regulars. They’re both good teams, and when one wins over the other, it can’t be seen as a surprise in any way.
Nonetheless, this won’t make the series any less dramatic or decrease the tension in any way. The excellence of baseball is found when tension is at its highest, and tension tends to get pretty high when two very good teams with similar expectations face off against each other. Just getting to the division series isn’t enough of an accomplishment for either of these clubs, and we’ll see that in every single pitch, every single swing and every single fielding play.
It’s playoff baseball at its finest, and for tonight, it was scheduled to take place in the finest of settings: AT&T Park in San Francisco. Here, Matt Cain would start for the Giants, and Johnny Cueto would counter for the Reds. Both pitchers, much like the teams that they play on, have had outstanding seasons, with little in terms of an advantage being given to either.
But right away, our expectations were rattled with Cueto coming out of the game early, and while none of the pitchers who came to relieve him in the following innings were at their sharpest, the Giants failed to capitalize in the same fashion that Brandon Phillips did for the Reds in their 5-2 victory to open up their NLDS against San Francisco. Seriously, watching this game, I kept imagining Phillips dragging every other player on his team across an imaginary finish line. He was amazing, both at the plate and in the field.
Unfortunately, as well as Posey played tonight, the Giants had no equal. Here’s how it all happened:
Pre Game Rambling
Here are your lineups:
|Cincinnati Reds||San Francisco Giants|
|2B Brandon Phillips||CF Angel Pagan|
|SS Zack Cozart||2B Marco Scutaro|
|1B Joey Votto||3B Pablo Sandoval|
|LF Ryan Ludwick||C Buster Posey|
|RF Jay Bruce||RF Hunter Pence|
|3B Scott Rolen||1B Brandon Belt|
|C Ryan Hanigan||LF Gregor Blanco|
|CF Drew Stubbs||SS Brandon Crawford|
|P Johnny Cueto||P Matt Cain|
The game hasn’t even started yet, but Sergio Romo has already collected his very first photo bomb of the season:
Brandon Belt makes an incredible catch in foul territory to get Zack Cozart out and Matt Cain strikes out Joey Votto for a three-up and three-down start to the game.
In the home half of the inning, Johnny Cueto strikes out Angel Pagan on a questionable called third strike, and then after two pitches to Marco Scutaro, the Reds starter shakes his head and walks off the field in pain. Incredible. During the Pagan at bat, Cueto went through an entire wind up and delivery, but didn’t actually throw the ball when the Giants batter stepped out of the box. There’s some speculation from the TBS broadcast booth that this probably didn’t help matters.
There are probably two additional narratives here: 1) Reds manager Dusty Baker doesn’t exactly have the greatest of reputations for keeping starting pitching arms healthy, as his “… and you know him by the trail of dead arms” nickname suggests; and 2) the Giants have inexplicably seemed to injure a lot of opposing pitchers this season.
Cueto only lasts eight pitches, yet Bronson Arroyo finishes a guitar song with a clean bill of health.
— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) October 7, 2012
Sam LeCure comes in to take Cueto’s spot. He retires Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval to end the inning.
Second Inning: Reds 0 – Giants 0
A lot of complains about the strike zone in the early going, but it’s far from awful according to Brooks Baseball’s use of Pitch FX (red are strike calls, green are ball calls):
Cain survives a minor scare in the form of a Jay Bruce double to get through the inning with his career ERA in post season games remaining at 0.00 (not a typo).
In the bottom half of the inning, LeCure runs into trouble with two out, giving up a walk to Belt and allowing the speedy Gregor Blanco to smack a double into right center field. Brandon Crawford is put on base intentionally to load the bases for the pitcher, Matt Cain. He lines out to Bruce, and the inning is over.
BABIP giveth, and BABIP taketh your car keys and throweth them in McCovey Cove.
— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) October 7, 2012
Mat Latos, originally scheduled to pitch game three was warming up in the Reds bullpen throughout the inning, and is expected to start the third.
Just a reminder as we unexpectedly watch him pitch, Matt Latos’ cat is named Cat Latos.
— Ryan Kaltenbach (@RyanKaltenbach) October 7, 2012
Third Inning: Reds 2 – Giants 0
Cain gives up a single to Drew Stubbs, but Dusty Baker pinch hits for LeCure with Homer Bailey who promptly strikes out. Brandon Phillips then smacks a hanging breaking pitch from Cain over the fence in left to give the first lead of the NLDS to the Cincinnati Reds.
Cozart gets hit by a pitch, and then Cain walks Votto before Ludwick grounds into a double play to save the Giants from what could’ve been an even worse inning.
On the other side, Latos gives up a single to Pablo Sandoval, but that’s all the Giants can muster as Sad Panda gets stranded.
Fourth Inning: Reds 3 – Giants 0
Another change up from Cain gets driven deep, as Jay Bruce takes the Giants pitcher yard. Could someone please remind the Reds that they’re playing in San Francisco. This shouldn’t be happening here. Cain gets three straight fly outs to retire the rest, but all the enthusiasm at AT&T Park has been sucked out like the marrow from a chicken wing bone when someone sweaty eats it.
Hunter Pence gets a single/reaches on an error (depending on whether or not you’re a moron) to lead off the bottom part of the inning, but Belt drives one right into Votto’s glove, and the first baseman steps on his bag for the force out double play. A collective “COME ON!” can be heard coming from Northern California. Blanco draws a walk from Latos, but Crawford strikes out to end the inning.
Fifth Inning: Reds 3 – Giants 0
Finally, Cain gets the Reds in order, but …
Cain just threw his 70th pitch. #reds
— John Fay (@johnfayman) October 7, 2012
And his night ends there, as Aubrey Huff pinch hits for Cain and flies out to the second baseman.
So far, Dusty has used the better pinch hitter and he used Homer Bailey.
— Ryan Oakley (@thegrumpyowl) October 7, 2012
It may seem premature, but Bruce Bochy’s decision gives us evidence of the fear factor Cincinnati’s bullpen imposes.
Pagan lofts one into shallow left that gets him on base, but Scutaro follows with a fielder’s choice. Two out for Pablo Sandoval, who grounds out to end the inning. More Sad Pandas. Cain’s final line for Game One: five innings pitched, three runs on five hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. It’s not the start that the Giants were hoping for.
Sixth Inning: Reds 3 – Giants 1
Phil Cuzzi’s strike zone is the least of Buster Posey’s complaints about the home plate umpire tonight:
George Kontos is in for San Francisco, and he retires Cincinnati in order without incident. Kontos made 44 appearances in relief for the Giants this season, and even though he wasn’t used in the most high leverage of situations, he managed to impress enough to be a “given” for the post season roster.
Posey leads off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run, and suddenly the crowd is invigorated.
Hey Buster, what do you think of this Cincinnati Reds lead?
In the next at bat, Pence gives the ball a ride to deep center, but AT&T Park does its thing and it’s caught just in front of the warning track. Belt gets robbed on a diving catch by Ludwick in left field, and then, Blanco gets a bunt single that should’ve led to an extra base on an error, but Phillips backing up Votto was able to scoop the missed throw from Rolen. It’s all for naught, as Crawford flies out to end the inning.
Seventh Inning: Reds 3 – Giants 1
Miguel Cairo pinch hits for Mat Latos, ending his night after four innings. The owner of Cat Latos gave up one run on four hits and a walk, striking out one. Kontos completes his second inning without allowing a walk or hit.
Sean Marshall enters the game for the Reds. He faces former teammate Ryan Theriot, pinch hitting for Kontos. Theriot grounds out to Rolen. Pagan flies out to center. And Scutaro Flies out to left to end the inning.
Eighth Inning: Reds 3 – Giants 1
Guillermo Mota enters the game and promptly gives up a single to Brandon Phillips. He follows this up by striking out a flailing Cozart, and Jeremy Affeldt comes in to face Votto. The southpaw gets the LHB to hit a double play ball, but Scutaro tries to tag Phillips instead of going to the bag. Phillips avoids a tag and they barely get Votto at first for the second out.
Affeldt intentionally walks Ludwick to face the lefty Jay Bruce who grounds out to Scutaro.
The Reds are six outs away from a 1-0 series lead, and making me very, very miserable. Speaking of which, Jonathan Broxton comes in for Cincinnati to face the middle of the Giants order. Sandoval lines out to lead things off. Posey knocks a single through the right side, but then Pence flies out to deep center. Belt keeps hopes alive with a walk to put runners on first and second for Blanco, who has been known to run into a fastball or two during his time in San Francisco. After falling down 0-2, Blanco takes three pitches to earn a full count. He then gets a called strike three on this pitch:
But this picture makes it look like it was at his knees:
Ninth Inning: Reds 5 – Giants 2
Santiago Casilla comes in to pitch the ninth for the Giants. He strikes Rolen out, but Hanigan plunks a single through the infield. Undeterred, Casilla strikes out Drew Stubbs after falling behind 3-0. Xavier Paul gets a ball to drop between Pagan and Pence, which bring up Phillips with runners on the corners. Phillips hits a hard grounder to the left of Scutaro that gets by him and drives in Hanigan.
Phillips is the early favorite for series MVP.
Then, a wild pitch followed by a passed ball brings in Paul for a second run. Casilla strikes out Cozart to finally end the inning.
Did Casilla just pump his fist? You lose all right to pump your first after that inning
— Grey (@spacemnkymafia) October 7, 2012
Aroldis Chapman comes in, and … oh. I’m not sure if I want to go on. Here’s a happy thought:
Chapman now. Wonder if the stadium radar reading will “break down” as it did for Robb Nen in the ’02 Series.
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) October 7, 2012
Shockingly, Joaquin Arias leads off with a single. Xavier Nady walks, and Baker comes out to talk to Chapman. He gets Pagan to pop out, but then Scutaro draws a very tense walk to load the bases with one out, and Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey due up. Panda pops out to the infield.
With Posey at the plate, Chapman throws a wild pitch, advancing all the runners, including Arias who scores. Posey remains the tying run, but he swings and misses at strike three, and there it is.
The Reds take Game One 5-2 against the Giants in San Francisco. All but one of the seven runs scored tonight were from home runs, wild pitches or passed balls. The two teams will go at it again tomorrow night.