SAN FRANCISCO -- Eight pitches into Cincinnati's playoff run and it seemed, well, over.Reds ace Johnny Cueto had just delivered a pitch out of his Luis TiantEl Duque delivery and hopped off the mound to the left side, waving with the international signal that he was done. His back had spasmed and, with the pain showing on his face, indeed, he was finished for the night, if not the entire series.NEWS: Cueto exits game after eight pitches
No way the Reds, with just 10 other pitchers on their postseason roster, would be able to withstand the Giants' constant pressure Saturday night, right? Especially not with the Giants' horse on the mound in Matt Cain."I was like, Why? Why? Why?" said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. "It kind of sucked."ExceptThe Reds flipped the script on the Giants -- Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker used penciled-in Game 3 starter and Giants nemesis Mat Latos to throw four innings of one-run ball in relief as the Reds took a one-game lead in this best-of-five National League Division Series opener, 5-2."It wasn't planned like that," Baker said."We were just fortunate to win that game, like the way we did tonight. And you got to give big props to Latos.Here is a guy sitting back, relaxed, thinking he was going to pitch next week at home and now all of the sudden, boom, this is his first playoff game.It was a great feat by him."And Cueto's was the shortest postseason start by a pitcher since Atlanta's John Thomson also went 13 of an inning on Oct. 9, 2004.But suddenly, it does not really matter. Especially not if Cueto is able to start Game 3 in place of Latos now.Cueto, who said he initially felt discomfort in his right side before the game and used a heating balm to loosen it up, acknowledged that he felt fine after the game and could see himself making that start come Tuesday in Cincinnati. But he said he had to wait until Sunday morning to see exactly how it felt."Only God knows," Cueto said in Spanish.Saturday night, no one knew the Reds would be able to shut down an opportunistic Giants offense and end a seven-game postseason losing streak while winning their first playoff game since 1995.Consider: Sam LeCure, Latos, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman combined to limit the Giants to two runs on seven hits, with six walks and five strikeouts."It was Latos' throw day," Baker said."This is his third day, so that's why we didn't want to go any further than we went with him, but we wanted to go with Sam LeCure first, give Latos time to get ready mentally, because as a starting pitcher you have a day or two to get yourself ready mentally, and also give him plenty of time to get ready in the bullpen."The only real blemishes on the Reds' "relievers" were the solo home run Buster Posey hit off Latos in the sixth inning and Chapman's wild ride in the ninth, when he walked two and uncorked a pair of wild pitches while loading the bases.