The Reds still lead the series, two games to one, going into Game 4 at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The Giants struck out 16 times against four Reds pitchers at Great American Ball Park, 10 of which came while facing Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey, who overpowered the San Francisco lineup with a bevy of fastballs and sliders, looking much like the guy who no-hit the Pirates on Sept. 28.
In doing so, the Giants became the fifth team in playoff history to strike out at least 16 times in a victory.
"It's a game that you look back and you're thankful your pitching came through," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, offering anything but a ringing endorsement for his offense.
And yet for all of their warts, it was the Giants' resourceful effort offensively -- coupled with two bad bounces -- that was enough for them in the 10th inning, as two hits, a passed ball and a critical error by Reds third baseman Scott Rolen gave the San Francisco a victory that ran short on style points but was pretty in its own right.
Those two runs didn't just give the Giants their first lead in this series, but it inspired something that has been lacking from the NL West champions -- hope.
"It's probably not the way you expect it to happen," said Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. "But against a team like this ... we'll take it."
It was catcher Buster Posey who kick-started the Giants' moribund offense as he muscled a fastball from Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton into right field to start the 10th inning. Hunter Pence then followed with a single into left field. But Broxton briefly recovered to strike out Belt and Xavier Nady.
That's when Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan had a ball go off his glove for a passed ball, which allowed both Posey and Pence to advance during Joaquin Arias' at-bat. This became important when Arias chopped a ball to third base as Rolen -- an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner -- fumbled the ball on a short-hop, recovered but threw late to first base as Posey scored with the go-ahead run.
That run held up, and the Giants, who are hitting .126 as a team in this series with a scant .179 on-base percentage, are alive for another day with an eye on better at-bats in Game 4 on Wednesday.
If nothing else, the Giants showed early on that bunching hits together isn't the only way to score runs.
Trailing, 1-0, the Giants tied the game in the third inning by scoring a run without the benefit of a hit, as Bailey hit Gregor Blanco to begin the inning. Bailey, with one of his few mistakes, walked the No. 8 hitter, Brandon Crawford. That set up a sacrifice bunt by Vogelsong that allowed Angel Pagan to follow with a sacrifice fly for a run.
This from a team that was shut out in Game 2 at AT&T Park and one that scored two runs in Game 1 -- one on a Posey home run and another on a wild pitch.
"I think we have to be really happy that we came away with this win tonight, because we didn't swing the bats very well," Posey said.
Offensive nirvana? Not by any means. Just enough to get by? That was certainly the case on Tuesday. But will a similar output be enough to keep this series alive?
"I think that's what happens to good teams. They find a way," Affeldt said. "We didn't get on a plane and fly across the county just to fly back. We're not going to fold."