October 10, 2012 in Sports

Against all odds, Giants stay alive

Avoid elimination despite terrible performance at plate
Joe Kay Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval tags out Brandon Phillips at third base in the first inning of close game in Cincinnati Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

CINCINNATI – Joaquin Arias hit a grounder toward third base and took off toward first, covering those 90 feet in a blink as a full-to-capacity ballpark went silent with angst.

Which would get there first, the infielder or the ball? Who would win the decisive playoff dash?

“That’s the fastest I’ve ever run to first,” Arias said.

Fast enough to extend the San Francisco Giants’ season one more day.

Reds third baseman Scott Rolen bobbled the short-hop, giving Arias enough time to beat the throw as the go-ahead run scored for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night that avoided an N.L. division series sweep.

Hardly able to get a hit the last two games, the Giants turned a passed ball and a misplayed grounder into a win that cut their series deficit to 2-1 and extended Cincinnati’s 17 years of home postseason futility.

“These are the type of games we’ve played all season long,” said Sergio Romo, who pitched the last two innings for the win. “We are a gritty and grinding team.”

Left-hander Barry Zito will pitch Game 4 today for the Giants, who have won the last 11 times he started. The Reds have to decide whether to try ace Johnny Cueto, forced out of the opener in San Francisco on Saturday with spasms in his back and side.

Manager Dusty Baker said after the game that they hadn’t decided whether to let Cueto try it, bring back Mat Latos on short rest again, or replace Cueto with Mike Leake, who wasn’t on the division series roster.

Switching out Cueto would leave the Reds ace ineligible to pitch in the championship series should the Reds get that far.

“It’s very difficult, but it all depends on if your ace can’t go or whatever it is,” Baker said. The Giants managed only three hits against Homer Bailey and the Reds bullpen, but got two of them in the 10th — along with a passed ball by Ryan Hanigan – to pull it out. San Francisco won despite striking out 16 times.

Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glove winner, couldn’t cleanly come up with Arias’ grounder, which put him in a tough position.

“I’ve gone through the play many times in my mind between then and now, and I think I would play it the same way,” Rolen said. “It hit my glove. I just couldn’t get it to stick.”

The Giants had only one single in seven innings off Homer Bailey, making his first start at Great American Ball Park since his Sept. 28 no-hitter in Pittsburgh. Fortunately for the Giants, Bailey’s one lapse led to a run. He hit a batter, walked another and gave up a sacrifice fly by Angel Pagan in the third.

That was it until the 10th, with the Giants going down swinging – the Reds set a season high with 16 strikeouts. Closer Aroldis Chapman got a pair of strikeouts on 100 mph fastballs during a perfect ninth inning, keeping it tied at 1.

San Francisco’s one-hit wonders finally got it going against Jonathan Broxton, who gave up leadoff singles by Buster Posey – the N.L. batting champion – and Hunter Pence, who pulled his left calf on a wild swing before getting his hit.

With two outs, Hanigan couldn’t come up with a pitch, letting the runners advance. Moments later, Cincinnati’s chance for a sweep was over.

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