CINCINNATI - When the impressive Cincinnati Reds rotation ran into problems, alarms sounded.
The kind you hear for a five-alarm fire.
As the Reds turned to their emergency starter Wednesday, they sprung a leak attempting to hose down the out-of-control blaze.
Mike Leake allowed a lead-off home run on his second pitch and another to the No. 7 hitter in the second inning. Add it all up and Leake gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings as the Reds fell 8-3 to the San Francisco Giants before 44,375 fans at Great American Ballpark. The best-of-five National League Division Series is now tied 2-2.
Matt Cain will start for the Giants against Cincinnati’s Mat Latos in the deciding game Thursday afternoon. Latos is 4-3 with a 2.19 earned-run average in 11 games against the Giants, while Cain is 4-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 10 starts against the Reds.
Since the wild-card playoffs went to a two-three format, no team has ever rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win.
The Giants are one win away from being the first to do it after losing the first two games at home. Meanwhile, the Reds have not lost three consecutive games at home this season.
Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto was placed on the disabled list Wednesday morning and manager Dusty Baker turned to Leake, who responded by showing why he was initially left off the Reds post-season roster.
The Tampa Bay Rays had the lowest team ERA amongst starters in the majors this season. They collectively had a 70-51 record with a 3.34 ERA and were followed by the Washington Nationals (72-45, 3.40, with Stephen Strasburg), the Los Angeles Dodgers (56-56, 3.41), the St. Louis Cardinals (71-47, 3.62) and Cincinnati (66-43, 3.64).
Since you asked, the Toronto Blue Jays ranked 25th -- took 24 good teams to beat them -- with a 52-69 record and a 4.82 ERA.
Gregor Blanco, the seventh hitter Leake faced, hit a two-run homer in the second. The slap hitter had seven homers in 1,289 career at-bats.
After the Reds narrowed the gap to 3-2, Leake allowed back-to-back doubles to Joaquin Arias and Angel Pagan in the fifth. The Giants scored two runs in the inning and later piled on against the Reds bullpen with a three-run seventh.
“We can’t be scared, we can’t be nervous,” said Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. “We have to go out and play the game. What we’ve seen has been baseball in a nutshell.” ... Catcher Ryan Hanigan: “It is what it is, we have a chance to go out and win this thing and be heroes. I know we’ve lost two straight at home, but I’d rather be playing here, than on the road -- even though home field advantage hasn’t meant anything to either team.”
GAME 1 vs. GAME4
Baker had to scramble in Game 1, using two starters: Cueto left after eight pitches with a mild strain of his oblique, so the skipper turned to Latos, who would have started Game 2. Latos pitched four innings, throwing 57 pitches ... Giants manager Bruce Bochy, with his back against the Ohio River, hooked starter Barry Zito after 3 2/3 innings, then used his relievers -- including three in a three-hitter span in the fourth inning before giving the ball to Tim Lincecum, who pitched 4 1/3 innings allowing one run ... Said Lincecum: “I wouldn’t say you’re surprised, you go out there with the expectation of doing well and when things go well you think this is the way it should be.”
THE TIME MACHINE
Arias, who beat out a grounder off Scott Rolen’s glove in the 10th inning of Game 3 on Tuesday that allowed the Giants’ winning run to score, is a name Texas Rangers fans will never forget. When the Rangers sent Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano in 2004, Texas also wanted Arias. The Yanks wanted to give the Rangers another minor leaguer, but Texas insisted on Arias. The other minor leaguer? Second baseman Robinson Cano. Arias has started 137 games with the Rangers, New York Mets and Giants. Cano has started 1,130, hitting .308 with 334 doubles, 177 homers, knocking in 715 runs and posting a career .854 on-base plus slugging ... Arias entered as part of a double switch when Zito left and had two doubles.
Entering Game 4 1-for-12 this post-season, Pagan went deep, the first-ever lead-off homer in the playoffs for the Giants franchise dating back to their New York days ... San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval hit a towering two-run homer to right in the seventh ... Pagan’s double in the fifth was the first for the Giants in 14 tries with men in scoring position in the series.
HEALTHY AS A HORSE
Latos disagreed with talk that he was bothered by the flu, hence the reason the Reds skipped him as the Game 4 starter. “I never had the flu,” he said. “Whoever tweeted that is an idiot.” ... Baker said Latos had been bothered by allergies, “like I have and a lot of people in the Ohio Valley.”
The Jays reinstated right-hander Jesse Litsch from the 60-day disabled list Wednesday and he elected free agency rather than accept an assignment to the minor leagues. Litsch didn’t pitch this season while he recovered from arm injury. He was 27-27 with a 4.16 ERA in 67 starts with the Jays from 2007-11.