Thanks to the MLB schedule makers having to throw together this seasons playoff format like a early morning of forgotten homework, the Giants were able to open their NLDS with the Cincinnati Reds in San Francisco – giving the orange and black a great opportunity to strike first in the unique 2-3 format.
Sadly, it didn’t happen.
With their ace on the mound, all looked too perfect for the Giants. A one-two-three first inning for Matt Cain set the evening off right and just two batters into the night for the Giants offensively, Reds starter Johnny Cueto had to leave the game with back spasms, sending the Reds bullpen into a frenzy. Nobody ever wants to see an injury, but it was hard not to think at first glance the Giants were catching a major break. Five plus scoreless innings later, it wasn’t exactly feeling like that as Mat Latos and Sam LeCure shut down the Giants’ offensive until Buster Posey (who else) put the Giants in the run column with a solo homer. A cheap run scored for the Giants in the bottom of the 9th off a wild pitch, still, it wasn’t enough as the Reds were able to quiet the rowdy AT&T crowd en route to their 5-2 victory.
Cain’s Past Haunts Him – Matt Cain wasn’t the Matt Cain we all know, but, he battled in his five innings. The few mistakes he did make, he made to the wrong batters as both Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce (two players I said he needed to be wary of in our pre-game preview) hit rockets off him – Bruce’s clearing the right field wall. However, it was a hanging slider to Brandon Phillips that was the initial gut-punch, a two-run shot that opened the scoring in the third inning. If there was any positive to Cain’s outing, he only threw 75 pitches, essentially all but securing a Game 4 start if it gets there.
Offensive Woes – Buster Posey might’ve taken Mat Latos deep, but that was just about the only thing the Giants’ offense could do as they were stifled all night long. The few breaks they could’ve had instantly turned in favor of the Reds, with sub-par defensive outfielders like Ryan Ludwick making leaping/diving catches and frozen ropes being hit right at infielders, resulting in double plays, killing any rally the Giants hoped to start. It was a case of what could go wrong – did go wrong.
Bullpen Holds Strong – If there was a shining moment for the Giants tonight, it was their ‘pen, lead by George Kontos who tossed two innings of scoreless ball (six up, six down) after Matt Cain departed. Although the Giants were unable to come back and take the lead, Kontos’ work kept the game close in the case the Giants could muster some offensive mojo. It wasn’t to be, but Konto’s strong work at season end and tonight might get the rookie a few more opportunities this postseason.
Bronson Arroyo is expected to take the mound in Game 2 for the Reds, opposed by Madison Bumgarner, in as close of a must-win scenario you can get without it being an elimination game. Same time, same place tomorrow, before the two clubs head to Cincy for Game 3 on Tuesday.