Giants' Game 1 dominance halted by Reds

Giants' Game 1 dominance halted by Reds

Giants' Game 1 dominance halted by Reds
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants immediately diverged from the path that led them to a World Series title two years ago. They can only hope that this new road doesn't lead them downhill.

Having won each of their three postseason series openers in 2010, the Giants broke that pattern Saturday night with a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park.

Matt Cain, who yielded three runs in five innings, was involved in the end of another streak as he absorbed his first defeat in four postseason starts. His stretch of consecutive postseason innings without allowing an earned run ended at 23 1/3 when Brandon Phillips clobbered a two-run homer in the third inning. Jay Bruce christened the fourth inning with another homer off Cain, who also yielded a pair of home runs in each of his two regular-season losses to the Reds.

The combination of mathematics and history became daunting for the Giants with this single setback. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Game 1 winner of the previous 68 Division Series since 1995 advanced to the League Championship Series 48 times (71 percent). In the Majors' 104 previous best-of-five series, which includes the LCS through 1984 and four Division Series in 1981, the Game 1 victor advanced 73 times (70 percent).

The last time the Giants lost the opening game of a postseason set and still emerged triumphant was the 1921 World Series, when they outlasted their New York counterparts, the Yankees, five games to three in a best-of-nine format.

"Sure, you hate to lose the opener, and we're at home," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "But we have a lot of baseball left. These guys have been resilient all year."

Indeed, the Giants competed all night, as they typically do. They trailed, 3-1, when Santiago Casilla allowed a pair of ninth-inning runs facilitated by pinch-hitter Xavier Paul's bloop single, a wild pitch and a passed ball. But San Francisco capitalized on Reds closer Aroldis Chapman's wildness to load the bases with one out and bring the tying run to the plate with Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey due up.

"I'm pretty sure we're not going to see that same Chapman every day," Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said. "It was his first playoff game, and I know he has better command than that."

In fact, Chapman recovered immediately by inducing Sandoval's popup and striking out Posey.

Asked if this late surge could carry over into Sunday's Game 2, Posey mustered a smile and replied, "Hopefully."

That wasn't San Francisco's only truncated rally. Gregor Blanco took a called third strike from Jonathan Broxton to end the eighth inning and strand two runners with the Giants trailing. Some Giants believed that Broxton missed with the 3-2 pitch. Afterward, Blanco remained calm.

"It was a great pitch for the pitcher," he said. "I think it was a bit outside. ... The umpire made a quick decision and I cannot argue about it."

Most Giants fans might think that any game including a home run by Posey, their Galahad, off Mat Latos, their Grinch, would be a rousing success. It wasn't that way.

The Giants appeared to receive a huge break in their half of the first inning when Reds starter Johnny Cueto left the game with back spasms after retiring one batter and throwing eight pitches.

"For sure, it was a big opportunity for us," Blanco said. "But we still knew that they have great pitchers and a great bullpen."

That was quickly evident. San Francisco left the bases loaded in the second inning against reliever Sam LeCure when Cain lined out to right field.

On came Latos, the Reds' scheduled Game 3 starter. The right-hander lacked the dominance he usually reserves for the Giants, whom he has limited to a .201 batting average while compiling a 2.19 ERA against them in 11 regular-season appearances. But he was effective enough. Pitching on three days' rest and after throwing 20 pitches off a bullpen mound in the afternoon, Latos worked four innings and allowed four hits, including Posey's round-tripper leading off the sixth.

The Giants were retired 1-2-3 only twice but couldn't sustain a rally, recalling their home scoring average of 3.8 runs per game during the regular season -- the sixth-lowest in the Majors.

If the Giants wanted to curse their fate, they could have muttered about Brandon Belt's fourth-inning liner that Reds first baseman Joey Votto converted into a double play; Belt's sixth-inning fly to left that Ryan Ludwick caught with a dive; Marco Scutaro's seventh-inning drive that Ludwick caught but almost overran; and Sandoval's eighth-inning bolt that shortstop Zack Cozart reached up for and grabbed.

Additionally, Pence hit drives to the center- and right-field warning tracks in the sixth and eighth innings, respectively.

"Honestly, the second one I hit as good as I could hit it. ... I think it was just heavy air," Pence said. "On both of them, I caught the sweet spot of the barrel."

Cain expressed appreciation for the offense's effort.

"These guys were working the entire game," he said. "Until the very end, they were trying to get something done. I made some bad pitches and got these guys in the hole, so that was my fault."

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.