SAN FRANCISCO The Giants hoped this wouldnt happen. They feared it might.
Fear is prevailing in this NL Division Series.
A heretofore sturdy and stalwart rotation wobbled into October, and the Cincinnati Reds are flipping them over like fiddler crabs.
Two games and maybe a season in the books at AT&T Park and the Giants are still waiting for a starting pitcher to record an out in the sixth inning. One night after Matt Cain gave up two damaging home runs, Madison Bumgarner fell to the Reds rat-a-tat approach, and Dusty Bakers patient hitters pounded near everyone else to grab a 9-0 victory and a 2-0 edge in this rapidly shrinking NL Division Series.
The Giants are tasked with trying to become the first team in Division Series history to rally back to win from a 2-0 deficit. Others have tried; all 21 of those clubs have failed.
To play another baseball game again at Third and King this year, the Giants must pull off a three-game sweep at Cincinnati something no team has done to the Reds this season. In fact, the Reds havent lost three consecutive home games all year.
And the Giants havent swept three in Porkopolis since April 5-7, 1999, when the Reds still played at the concrete and AstroTurf wonder known as Riverfront Stadium.
If that all sounds dispiriting well we havent dwelt into Game 2 yet:
Bronson Arroyo didnt allow a runner into scoring position while one-hitting the Giants over seven innings. And two refreshingly scoreless relief innings from Tim Lincecum served as a mere temporary tourniquet, as the Reds crushed Jose Mijares and Guillermo Mota in a five-run eighth inning while outhitting the Giants 13-2.
The tone was off from the start, though. Bumgarner and Cain combined to give up seven runs over just 9 13 innings in the first two games of this series. That might have worked a time or two in the 2002 postseason, but Barry Bonds isnt coming back 'til the statue unveiling and Jeff Kent is giving four-fingered handshakes somewhere in the Philippines.
The Giants pitched their way to a World Series title in 2010. Its up to Ryan Vogelsong, Tuesdays Game 3 starter, to reestablish the paradigm before the factory closes up shop for the winter.
Starting pitching report
The Giants had every reason to believe that Bumgarner would be the sand in the Reds lobby ashtray. He was 10-3 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 15 home starts and one of those was a one-hit shutout against the Reds in June.
Bumgarner had a history of slow breathing in the postseason, too. He won Game 4 of the 2010 World Series just a few months after his 21st birthday.
But he could not reprise that Halloween night performance.
Its been a series of tricks for Bumgarner, who struggled to a 5.89 ERA over his last seven starts and wasnt much better while allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk in 4 13 innings Sunday night.
Ryan Ludwick, who had been 1 for 16 in his career against Bumgarner, put the Reds on the board with a leadoff home run in the second inning. Then the Reds collected four singles in a five-batter span in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead.
Joey Votto and Ludwick led off by lining fastballs to the outfield turf, and after a foul pop, Scott Rolen served a first-pitch changeup to right field. Hunter Pence threw home and the throw wasnt cut off, nor was it in time to prevent Votto from scoring. Rolen advanced to second base on the throw, which the Reds used to their advantage when Ryan Hanigan grounded a first-pitch slider up the middle and past second baseman Marco Scutaros diving attempt for a two-run single.
Bumgarner kept the fourth from getting all Twinsian, but when Zack Cozart and Votto slapped one-out singles in the fifth, manager Bruce Bochy relieved his young left-hander of the baseball.
Bochy pledged that Lincecum would be available in the bullpen, but at first blush it appeared there was emergency glass in front of the two-time Cy Young Award winner. Guillermo Mota was the first to warm up, then George Kontos entered the game for Bumgarner despite throwing two scoreless innings (24 pitches) a night earlier.
Kontos contributed again, pumping his fist and roaring when he got Ludwick to hit into a doube play to escape Bumgarners jam in the fifth.
But then Lincecum took off his hooded sweatshirt as the Giants batted in the bottom of the inning, and cheers of recognition spread from the left field stands as he walked to the bullpen mound.
Perhaps Lincecum already had gotten loose in the underground batting cage. Or perhaps he really does have a rubber arm. He made only three or four warmup tosses alongside Jose Mijares, and when the inning ended, there were a few moments of confusion as Lincecum headed back to the dugout. But Bochy bid him enter.
Lincecum could have sucked the remainder of the life out of 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Instead, he got a fly out to the warning track from Jay Bruce and then spun a couple nice curveballs to end a 1-2-3 sixth inning with a crowd-stoking strikeout of Hanigan.
Lincecum worked around Brandon Phillips two-out double while throwing a scoreless seventh inning, too finishing up the third relief appearance of his career, and the second in the postseason.
That wasnt the only oddity about Lincecums night. He threw from the stretch the entire time. And of course, he was throwing to Buster Posey, whom he hasnt worked with often since the All-Star break.
The results were what Bochy and the crowd needed, though. He struck out two, and despite a few wild misses, he did not walk a batter.
After that you dont want to know. Drew Stubbs hit a triple. There was a lot of running around by people in red helmets.
At the plate
The Giants didnt advance a runner into scoring position until the eighth inning, and that was due to fielders indifference.
Arroyo found a groove in his scissor-kick delivery and the Giants couldnt force him out of it. The durable right-hander snipped at the corners while taking a perfect game into the fifth inning, he didnt allow a runner into scoring position through the seventh, and threw just two of his first 86 pitches from the stretch.
Brandon Belt broke up the perfect game with a line-drive single to right field with two outs in the fifth. It was the first ball to leave the infield since the first inning, when the Giants hit three fly outs.
Arroyo was supposed to be the weak link in a Reds rotation that featured 19-game winner Johnny Cueto and Giants nemesis Mat Latos. Instead, Arroyos outing was reminiscent of his June 26 start against the Milwaukee Brewers, when he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
The Giants table setters simply havent done enough in this series. Angel Pagan and Scutaro, who had a 20-game hitting streak to end the regular season, are 1 for 17 in the series.
Pagan always touts the importance of scoring early. So its worth noting that the Giants havent led in this series and have trailed at the conclusion of 15 of 18 innings.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford made a nifty stop on Ludwicks grounder to start a double play that charged up the crowd. It turned out to be a sugar high, though. Arroyo kept on dealing and plate umpire Brian ONora was more border friendly than a scrapbooking class.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval and backup left fielder Xavier Nady both made nice plays behind Sergio Romo in the ninth, while a few thousand fans were flagging down cabs.
The Giants announced 43,505 paid including the only World Series MVP in the franchises five-plus decades in San Francisco. Were betting first-pitch thrower Edgar Renteria got his field-level seat comped. Drinks, too. In fact, the Giants couldve thrown in a uniform and a contract.
The NL Division Series shifts to Cincinnati for Game 3 on Tuesday. Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37) takes the mound for the Giants. He will oppose Homer Bailey (13-10, 3.68), who tossed a no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28.