Reds beat Cain, Giants in Game 1

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Reds beat Cain, Giants in Game 1

BOX SCORE

How about eight pitches and out?

That was how the Giants and Reds began this evenly matched NL Division Series, as Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto quite literally bowed out with back spasms eight pitches into the first inning.

But a seemingly huge advantage tilted while the moon steadily rose over China Basin.

Cuetos injury only opened the portcullis for Mat Latos, the Goliath of the Giants Old Testament, and they couldnt cast enough smooth stones in four innings against him. The Reds high-powered bullpen proved more mighty than the Philistines in the final three innings, too, as the Giants lost 5-2 Saturday night.

Matt Cain surrendered three runs in five innings, all on baseballs lost into the neighbors yard. Brandon Phillips hit a two-run shot in the third inning and Jay Bruce proved impossible to solve again while hitting a solo shot that took a Blue Angels-inspired flight path into the stands above the right field arcade in the fourth.

The Giants managed just Buster Poseys home run off Latos in the sixth, which did a bit more than Gangnam Style to wake up the sellout crowd.

Now for the sobriety hour: The Giants are likely to face Cueto again in this series, most likely in Game 3 when Latos was penciled in to start. And Latos, who wouldve been limited to just one appearance in this series, now will be rested and ready to tangle with the Giants again, if need be.

Crank up the incline level on that treadmill. The Giants didnt lose Game 1 in any of their three postseason series on the way to their World Series title in 2010. They had won eight consecutive postseason series openers beginning in 2000.

In fact, the last time the Giants won a postseason series after dropping the first game, it was 1921 against the Yankees so long ago that the World Series was a best-of-9 affair.

As for the Reds, they won their first postseason game in 17 years. They had lost seven consecutive playoff games before Saturday.

Starting pitching report

In 32 starts at AT&T Park over the past two years, Matt Cain had given up multiple home runs twice both this season, both against the Reds.

The shots he surrendered came to familiar adversaries, too. Brandon Phillips put the Reds on the board with a two-run home run in the third inning when Cains 1-2 curveball parachuted over the plate. Phillips also hit a two-strike, two-run home run off Cain in April at Great American Ball Park.

In terms of expert-level opponents, though, Phillips is like Glass Joe compared to Jay Bruce. The left-handed hitter entered 6 for 13 with two doubles, four walks and just one strikeout against Cain. He was no easier to solve Saturday, hitting a double in the second inning and connecting for a solo shot that streaked into the right field arcade to lead off the fourth.

Bruce hit a 1-0 changeup. It was the fourth straight change that Cain threw him over a span of two at-bats.

It was the first time Cain allowed multiple homers at AT&T Park since June 29, when Reds pitcher Mike Leake and shortstop Zack Cozart took him deep. Prior to that, Cain hadnt allowed two homers in a home start since his final outing of the 2010 season.

Cain averted a disaster when he jammed Ryan Ludwick for a double-play grounder to end the third. Then he became more efficient while retiring six of his next seven batters an important adjustment, since it allowed Giants manager Bruce Bochy to lift his ace for pinch hitter Aubrey Huff after five innings and 75 pitches.

With a moderate workload, Cain absolutely would be in play to start a potential Game 4 on short rest if the Giants face elimination.

Bullpen report

George Kontos rewarded Bochys faith for putting him on the postseason roster. The 27-year-old rookie tossed two perfect innings to stabilize the game and give the Giants a chance to rally. (He was better than his alma mater, Northwestern, at holding the opposition, too.)

Guillermo Mota and Jeremy Affeldt held serve as well. And even though Santiago Casilla struck out the side in the ninth, he also allowed two runs on a caustic mix that included three singles, a wild pitch and a passed ball.

At the plate

The Giants received an apparently huge break eight pitches into the game when Cueto flung his arm like a rag doll after throwing a strike to Marco Scutaro. He came off the mound without trying a warmup pitch and was diagnosed with back spasms.

Its possible the spasm was triggered when leadoff man Angel Pagan was granted a late timeout and Cueto stopped midway through his delivery.

Right-hander Sam LeCure entered and got a pair of ground outs, then survived a jam in the second inning when Brandon Belt drew a two-out walk and took third on Gregor Blancos sharp double. As Latos warmed up on the bullpen mound, LeCure intentionally walked No.8 hitter Brandon Crawford, then barely escaped when Cain lined out to right field.

That break might turn into a distinct disadvantage for the Giants in this series. It brought Latos into the game a card-carrying member of the GNC (Giants Nemesis Club). He was the owner of a 1.67 ERA in six career starts at AT&T Park, in addition to announcer Dave Flemmings broken sunroof when he chucked a ball over the left field bleachers in batting practice two years ago.

Latos was penciled in to start Game 3, oddly limiting him to one appearance in the series. Now the Giants face the prospect of seeing him twice, after he threw a tidy 57 pitches (39 strikes) over four innings.

Latos scattered four hits and just one run, on Poseys solo shot to start the sixth inning.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty told TBS that the club didnt expect to replace Cueto on the NLDS roster, meaning he could return to pitch Game 3 and Latos would loom in a potential Game 4 on three days of rest or Game 5 on normal rest.

Latos got the Reds to the seventh inning, which allowed manager Dusty Baker to trot out his frontline relievers. The NLs best bullpen did not flinch, as Sean Marshall worked a perfect seventh and Jonathan Broxton survived some hard contact in the eighth.

Cozart speared Pablo Sandovals lineout, and after Posey singled to right field, Pence hit a deep out to the warning track in right-center. Brandon Belt showed nice poise in his first postseason game while forcing his second walk of the night, and then Gregor Blanco struck out looking on a borderline 3-2 pitch that was good enough for plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.

Even after Casilla allowed two runs, Giants got the tying run to the plate in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman when Joaquin Arias hit a pinch single, Xavier Nady drew a pinch walk and Scutaro walked to load the bases. But Sandoval popped out, and after a wild pitch scored a run, Posey, with the crowd on its feet, struck out swinging on a 100-mph fastball to end it.

The Giants were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.

In field

Belt never looked so much like a baby giraffe or earned such a loud ovation than when he flipped over the rail down the left field line while catching Cozarts foul fly in the first inning. Somehow Belt hung onto the baseball, even though no paying customers were willing to help break his fall as he tumbled into a luxury box.

Three innings later, Belt found himself on the other end in another sense. After Hunter Pence reached on an errant throw from third baseman Scott Rolen, Belt hit a hard line drive that first baseman Joey Votto snared to start an unassisted double play.

Phillips made two incredibly smart and athletic plays. First, he made a diving stop in foul ground while backing up first base on Gregor Blancos bunt single in the sixth, and his throw nearly caught Blanco off base.

Then on the basepaths in the eighth, Phillips stopped dead in his tracks and fell backwards (the Bernie Lean, perhaps?) while avoiding second baseman Marco Scutaros tag to prevent the Giants from turning a double play.

Attendance

The Giants announced 43,492 paid, and none of them booed Alex Smith when he bounced the ceremonial first pitch. Bet he cant do that in front of 69,000 at Candlestick and get away with it.
Up next

The Giants and Reds reconvene at AT&T Park for Game 2 of their NL Division Series on Sunday night. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37) takes the mound against right-hander Bronson Arroyo (12-10, 3.74). First pitch is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. PDT.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.

 

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.