Reds present tough puzzle for Cain, Giants


Reds present tough puzzle for Cain, Giants

SAN FRANCISCO Matt Cain lost only five starts all season,and two of them came against the Cincinnati Reds.

Angel Pagan had one of his finest moments against the Reds,hitting a game-winning home run in the ninth inning at Great American Ball Parkin April.

None of it matters now.

Its the playoffs. Everything changes, said Pagan, whenasked his thoughts about facing the Reds in an NL Division Series that beginsSaturday night at AT&T Park.

Whatever happened in the season is in the past. We start fromzero. But the way were playing, I like the way were keeping the intensity up.I think were ready ready to go and win this thing.

In what ways do the Reds pose a challenge?

Good bullpen, good starting rotation and good hitting,Pagan said. Theyre a good team. Thats why they won the Central. But webelieve were good too, so they should be asking the same questions about us.

The Giants knew theyd be getting a quality opponentregardless of whether it ended up being the Reds or Washington Nationals. TheReds entered their final regular-season game already at 97 victories theirmost in the regular season since the tail end of the Big Red Machine days in1976.

They have left-handed power in Jay Bruce, right-handed powerin Ryan Ludwick and threats on the bases in almost everyone else.

They do some other things right too, said Cain, who willthrow the first pitch at 6:37 p.m. PDT. Theyve got guys who can run.(Brandon) Phillips can run. (Zack) Cozart can run. (Drew) Stubbs can run. (Joey)Votto will run if you dont pay attention to him. Its not just that theyll godeep. They take the extra base when they can.

Cain will face right-hander and 19-game winner Johnny Cuetoin Game 1. The Reds plan to throw right-hander Bronson Arroyo in Game 2 onSunday. Giants manager Bruce Bochy knows his Game 2 choice, but wont announceit until after Thursdays workout. It would be a shock if its not MadisonBumgarner, who threw a one-hit shutout June 28 to beat Cueto at AT&T Park.

Thats just one game, said Bumgarner, who threw off amound Tuesday and plans for one more side session. It can help yourconfidence, but you dont hold back just because you did good against them onetime. Its the same mentality. You cant give in to one of the best teams inbaseball.

The Reds plan to send right-hander Mat Latos to the moundwhen the series shifts to Cincinnati for Game 3 and might turn to Cueto onshort rest in Game 4. That tells you how well theyve been pitching; they arewilling to bypass right-hander Homer Bailey, who threw a no-hitter last week.

The Giants havent mapped out their rotation yet, but thecurrent leaning is toward Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong in some combinationfor Games 3-4.

Although Barry Zito wouldve been a lock for the rotation ina series against the Washington Nationals, the Reds are seen as a lessappealing matchup for the finesse lefty. As for Lincecum, there is a thoughtthat he might benefit from pitching on the road, where he has won five of hislast six outings. Plus he might gather more focus and fuel from a hostile roadcrowd than pitching at home, where the stands at AT&T Park are laden withexpectations.

It all begins with Cain, who is 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA thisseason but 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA in two starts against the Reds. Cain allowedthree runs in a 9-2 loss April 24 at Cincinnati and got knocked around a littleharder for five runs on 11 hits in a 5-1 loss June 29 at AT&T Park. Hepitched into the seventh inning both times, though.

The first time in Cincinnati I threw the ball well, I justmade a couple of really big mistakes, said Cain, who gave up a two-run homerun to Brandon Phillips in the first inning of that start. The game at home, Iremember I felt fine. I missed over the plate a little more than I wanted, andthey did a good job. They put some good swings on pitches.

You cant worry about that. Its totally different from theseason to the playoffs. Youre just worried about getting each out, and I feelwere a lot better than last time (they faced the Reds). I feel were doingmore things right on offense, on the basepaths and defensively.

The Giants need to do those things early. They don't want to be tasked with coming back against the Reds, whose 2.66 bullpen ERA is the best in the major leagues. Closer Aroldis Chapman throws a 102 mph fastball and has struck out a cartoonish 122 in 71 23 innings.

The Reds officially became the No.2 seed -- and the Giants' opponent -- when Washington wonWednesday afternoon to clinch the NLs top spot.

Its hard to believe it came down to the last game, Bochysaid. Theyre pitching very well. Theyve got good starters and a goodbullpen. A very good defensive ballclub. Theyre solid. Thats why they had theseason they had.

Theyre just well balanced. They execute well. Theyre nota team thats going to beat themselves.

Thats the mark of a good manager, and theres your othermajor subplot of this series: Dusty Baker will return to San Francisco stillseeking the first World Series title of his managerial career. He was releasedfrom the hospital Sept. 24 after spending four days under observation afterbeing diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and a mild stroke.

Im glad to see him back in the dugout, said Bochy, whoonly trails Baker and Detroits Jim Leyland in victories by an active manager. Wevebeen thinking about him. Its great to se him back on the field doing what heloves to do.

No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series


No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series

CLEVELAND -- Wild Thing will have to stay in the bullpen during the World Series.

While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the movie "Major League" offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year's World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices have already been made.

A spokesman told the AP on Friday that MLB has worked with the Indians to identify "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch for the games in Cleveland. An announcement is expected early next week.

The Indians host Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Cleveland will host Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1-2.

There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw the first pitch and be part of the pregame festivities.

Sheen got wind of the buzz and responded on Twitter, posting a photo of himself as Vaughn in his Indians uniform and wrote, "Major League continues to be the gift that keeps on giving! if called upon, I'd be honored."

Sheen made an appearance during the playoffs at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday when the Chicago Cubs beat Los Angeles in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Released in 1989, "Major League" is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players including Vaughn, who struggled to find the strike zone and warmed up to "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit song in 1966 by The Troggs.

The real Cleveland Indians, who overcame injuries to win the AL Central, before knocking off Boston and Toronto in the playoffs, took a page from "Major League" this season.

Slugger Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis constructed a shrine in an empty clubhouse stall between their lockers like one in the movie. In the film, character Pedro Cerrano practices Voodoo and prays to an idol named, "Jobu" to help him hit curveballs.

Like Cerrano, Napoli and Kipnis have their own "Jobu" and have left gifts, including small bottles of rum and cigars, to keep them out of hitting slumps.

Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak, and the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters - a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games - busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice.

"Today was a must-win for us," Ben Zobrist said.

Los Angeles was limited to six hits and made four errors in a game that dragged on for 3 hours, 58 minutes.

Mike Montgomery won in relief of John Lackey, who was chased after consecutive walks opening the fifth. Four days shy of his 38th birthday, Lackey allowed two runs, three hits and three walks.

Julio Urias, at 20 years, 68 days the youngest postseason starting pitcher in major league history, gave up four runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings. He was the third consecutive left-hander to start the series for Los Angeles.

Chicago rattled off three straight hits to open the fourth, sparked by Zobrist's leadoff bunt single to third.

"With the way that our bats were swinging it at the beginning of the game, we just had to do anything we could. That was my thought process," Zobrist said. "I felt like if he threw a strike, I could get one down in a good spot and was able to do it.

He took second on Javier Baez's single to left, and Willson Contreras followed with a single to nearly the same spot in shallow left, scoring Zobrist.

Baez moved up to third and Contreras took second on left fielder Andrew Toles' errant throw to the plate that skidded all the way to the backstop.

Jayson Heyward hit a run-scoring groundout, and Russell followed with his first extra-base hit since Sept. 30 and his first homer since Sept. 19. He jubilantly pumped an arm as he rounded the bases on his two-run drive, which put the Cubs ahead 4-0.

Rizzo homered off Pedro Baez leading off the fifth, snapping his 0-for-11 skid in the series. Rizzo had entered 2 for 26 in the postseason.

Los Angeles closed to 5-2 in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Justin Turner's likely double-play grounder caromed off Montgomery's outstretched glove and Russell, who scrambled on all fours at shortstop as the ball went into left-center field for a two-run single.

Chicago tacked on five runs in the sixth off relievers Ross Stripling and Luis Avilan. Dexter Fowler singled in the first run, Rizzo added two more on a bases-loaded single and Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly, with a second run scoring on an error by center fielder Joc Pederson.


Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second. A sliding Gonzalez stretched his left hand toward the tip of the plate as catcher Contreras applied the tag with his left hand near Gonzalez's upper left arm.

The Dodgers challenged Angel Hernandez's call, which was upheld on video review. That drew online scorn from Washington star Bryce Harper.

"He was safe! Replay system still broke..Same thing all year long! (hashtag)DontMessItUp," Harper tweeted.


Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will attend Thursday's game, his first time back at Dodger Stadium since calling his last home game on Sept. 25. The 88-year-old ended his 67-year career this month with the regular-season finale at San Francisco.


Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. left in the seventh because of left hamstring tightness.


Ashton Kutcher and wife Mila Kunis announced the Dodgers' starting lineup. Also on hand were Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, George Lopez, Larry King and Mary Hart.


Lester allowed one run in six innings of Game 1 in the series, getting a no-decision in Chicago's 8-4 victory. ... Maeda has a 9.00 ERA in two postseason appearances. He allowed three runs and four hits in four innings of the NLCS opener and didn't factor in the decision.