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.

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first opening day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won't be in the stands. He won't make a point of watching on TV, either.

"It's a day game. I'll probably have things to do," the famed 89-year-old announcer told The Associated Press from his home in Hidden Hills, California. "I might catch a piece of it."

Not that Scully has any regrets since retiring after last season. He says he's grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy.

But he's learned that after a lifetime in the broadcast booth, watching a game as a fan holds little appeal.

"During the World Series back around '77 or '78, there was a game at Dodger Stadium with the Yankees, and I went to the game as a spectator. Now, I hadn't been as a spectator in a long, long time, and I felt somewhat restless that I wasn't broadcasting," Scully recalled Tuesday.

"I did not have the challenge of trying to describe, accurately and quickly, the way it should be done. I just sat there, and I was not happy, I'll be honest. So I realized that although I love the game, what I loved more was broadcasting it," he said.

Scully spoke to the AP because the Library of Congress has announced it will preserve his call of a 1957 game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the final time they played at the hallowed old stadium. Both teams moved to California after that season, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball.

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game is more famous. But that game at the Polo Grounds meant more to him personally, because he grew up going to games there, cheering for the Giants and dreaming of watching from the press box.

"It was so meaningful to me. I'm not sure what it really means to baseball fans anymore," Scully said. "The sands of time have washed over the Polo Grounds. But for me, it was one of the more memorable games I was ever involved in."

During that broadcast, Scully implored the players to take their time before there franchises left town: "Let's take it easy, we just want to take one last lingering look at both of you." The Library of Congress called it "a masterful example of the artistry that great sports announcers bring to their work, as well as their empathy for players and fans."

Six decades later, Scully is having an easier time letting go. So no plans to keep track Monday when Los Angeles plays the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

"All summer long, I expect to get feelings of nostalgia, wistfulness, whatever the word may be, but no, I am comfortable, I do know in my heart and soul I am where I should be, and that really is all I need," he said.

"Sure, after 67 years, you'll bet I'll miss it," he added. "But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school."

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco …