AT&T PARK — At the start of Saturday night’s National League Division Series game, the Giants seemed to have luck on their side.
That luck didn’t last long.
After a first inning that seemed to open the door for the Giants, it was the Cincinnati Reds who jumped out to an early lead, which proved too much to overcome for the Giants en route to a key, series-opening 5-2 win Saturday night.
In the top of the first, a screaming, orange-frenzied crowd watch Brandon Belt make a spectacular catch, falling into the stands to hold on to a pop-up by Zach Cozart. Giants starter Matt Cain threw 17 pitches, capping the inning by striking out former MVP Joey Votto.
In the bottom of the first, the Cincinnati Reds lost their starting pitcher after he’d thrown just eight pitches. Johnny Cueto left the game with back spasms, but that’s where the Giants luck would run dry.
Not everything having to do with Cueto’s injury was necessarily sheer luck, either.
SI’s Tom Verducci reported on the TBS broadcast that Cueto told the team he felt something warming up. Then, Angel Pagan tried to call time out during his leadoff at-bat, and while it wasn’t granted, Cueto held up his motion and never released the ball to the plate.
Just a few pitches later, Cueto would exit for Sam LeCure, whose 1-1/3 scoreless innings were enough to pick up a win. Then, came the nail in the Giants’ offensive coffin: Mat Latos.
Latos — in his first post-season appearance — pitched well enough for the win himself, going four innings and giving up just one hit and one run.
In his career, Latos is now 3-0 against the Giants, giving up two runs, three walks, and striking out 11 in those three starts.
Brandon Phillips hit a two-run home run off Cain in the third inning, and Jay Bruce followed it up with a lead-off shot in the fourth.
Cain ended up going five innings, giving five hits, three runs, walked one, and striking out four.
For Cain, these were the first runs he’d given up in his post-season career, as he pitched 21-1/3 scoreless innings for the Giants in 2010 during their run to the World Series.
Bruce Bochy said after the game that Cain didn’t look as sharp as he normally does:
“I thought he had pretty good stuff, just made a couple of mistakes there. This is a good hitting ball club that took advantage of them. … He was missing spots a little bit I think that’s fair to say tonight.”
The Giants bullpen kept them in the game, with George Kontos, Guillermo Mota, and Jeremy Affeldt going a combined three innings and giving up no runs.
However, Phillips would get his third RBI of the night on a single off a wobbly Santiago Casilla in the ninth. The Reds would add to their lead on a passed ball later that inning.
The bad luck carried over to the Giants offense. With Hunter Pence on first in the fourth inning, Belt scorched a ball down the line that was snared by Votto. Instead of a double, it was a double play.
Pablo Sandoval also hit a line drive caught by a leaping Cozart at shortstop in the eighth.
The Giants finally got on the board in the sixth, when catcher Buster Posey led off with a solo home run.
The National League batting champion also came to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Joaquin Arias would come in to score on a wild pitch, but Posey would strike out to end the game.
With the Giants dropping the first game of the series, pressure falls on their young left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who will start game two tomorrow night. Before tonight’s game, Bumgarner said that he’s worked out the kinks in his mechanics and he’s ready for the playoffs.
“Once you get in the postseason you can’t think about mechanics, can’t think about any of that. You just got to go out there and compete with whatever you got and try and keep us in the game and give us a chance.”