SAN FRANCISCO Here is the neatest, sparest, most sanitized-for-your-protectionway to describe the fate of the Giants cosmos Saturday night:
If Ian Kinsler had hit a fly ball off the top of the centerfield wall, it wouldve bounced over for a home run.
Kinsler does not play for the Cincinnati Reds, of course.The Giants were not playing a two-year-old World Series game, either.
They were beginning their hopeful march back to the FallClassic Saturday night. And now, for the first time since 1997, itll be anuphill slog. Their streak of eight consecutive Game 1 victories ended in a 5-2,thumb-in-your-eye loss to the Reds at China Basin.
We had tough luck, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
They had tough luck. Yes, that is right. They did not have access to the samefree-flowing energy particles that carried them along in 2010.
You can point to Matt Cains bases-loaded lineout to rightfield in the second inning. Or Brandon Belts blistered line drive that turnedfrom a double into a double play. Or Hunter Pences two well struck drives tothe warning track, which didnt have a prayer of cutting through the colder,heavier night air. Reds shortstop Zack Cozarts hand might still be numb fromcatching Pablo Sandovals lineout in the eighth, too.
Cain scorched that ball, and that can change the gamethere, Bochy said. I thought we had better at-bats than what it looked like.
Those wont show up in the box score. So what did? What willsomeone notice years from now, when they click on the play-by-play?
Easy: The Reds lost their starter after eight pitches. Andthey won.
Johnny Cuetos back spasms sent him to the dugout withoutlobbing a trial pitch in the first inning. But what looked to be a series-changing break turnedinto a boon for the Reds. After warmup comic Sam LeCure prepped the audienceover an inning and two-thirds, presumed Game 3 starter Mat Latos emerged withhis platinum blond hair and did what he usually does to the Giants at AT&TPark. (Other than breaking a radio announcers sunroof, that is.)
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Latos held the Giants to just Buster Poseys home run infour innings, lasting long enough to hand the ball to the Reds NL-best bullpen but not too long to be sidelined forever in this series. Latos threw just 57pitches (39 strikes).
The Giants' reaction to the switch could best be described as, "Uhhmmmm....wait a sec..."
Pence was like most of the Giants hitters. He had prepared by watching videoof Cueto and the Reds relievers. He didnt look at any footage of Latos. Beltsaid he prepped the same way.
Its a little bit of a curveball, Pence said.
Posey being Posey, said: Weve faced both those guys. We expected toface both those guys. Its not like Latos was not going to pitch in thisseries.
True. Except now, Latos might pitch in this series twice.
And Cueto might not be badly injured, either. Cincinnati GMWalt Jocketty said he didnt intend to replace the right-hander and 19-gamewinner on the NLDS roster. So Cueto could face the Giants in Game 3, with Latoseither ready on short rest for Game 4 or fully rested if the series goes thedistance.
How was this a huge break for the Giants, again?
Even their apparent strokes of luck turned into fictional Kinsler home runs.
Instead of the red thong, it was Reds gone as in the pairof home runs that Matt Cain allowed in five innings.
Cain tipped his cap to Jay Bruce, who kept up appearances of careerownage by hitting a double and a solo home run, both on changeups. But when it came to Brandon Phillips' two-run shot in the third, on a 1-2 do-nothing floater, Cain could only shake his head.
The pitch to Bruce wasnt too terrible but the hangingbreaking ball to Phillips is something you definitely cant let happen in a bigsituation like this, Cain said. In big games, they hurt even more.
Especially when the hitter is waiting to swoop on thatmistake like a circling buzzard.
I sat on the curveball the whole at-bat and he left it upand I was like, okay, there we go, said Phillips, who also took Cain deep fora two-strike, two-run homer (on a changeup) in April at Great American BallPark.
I was like, okay, weve got momentum now and the team wasgoing crazy. And I was going crazy too. I was like, I hit a home run, thisfeels good. Everybody in the dugout was going crazy and everybody was like,Okay, we got this win, thats all it really takes.
And, like, okay, those were the first earned runs that Cainhad given up in 23 23 career postseason innings. And they sent him to hisfirst playoff defeat.
How do the Giants come back from here, knowing that they neverlost a Game 1 in their three postseason series in 2010? And knowing they haventwon a postseason series after losing the opener since 1921, when the WorldSeries was a best-of-9?
Well be fine, Cain said. These guys showed what theyremade of. Well find out what tomorrow brings. Todays done with.
You wonder if High Pockets Kelly told his mates the same thing over non-alcoholic cereal beverages in 1921. Or maybe Irish Meusel or Frankie Frisch delivered the sermon following a 3-0 loss to Carl Mays and the Yankees at the Polo Grounds.
Almost a century later, the Giants know this:
No more bad bounces. Its the rebound that counts now.