CINCINNATI - The San Francisco Giants knocked the Cincinnati Reds out of the playoffs, with a 6-4 win in Thursday's decisive Game 5 that marks an unprecedented MLB postseason series comeback.
No team had ever come back from 0-2 after losing the first two games at home, and the Giants needed only one inning to do it.
The Giants broke it open with all six runs in the 5th, starting with a Gregor Blanco single. Brendan Crawford then came to the plate, and after a couple of tough pitches were called balls, Reds starter Mat Latos had to come over the plate more, and gave up a triple to Crawford, his first hit of the series to score Blanco.
Latos got pitcher Matt Cain out, and got a grounder from Angel Pagan, but the ball got stuck in Cozart's glove, and he couldn't make a play anywhere. That scored Crawford, and Latos continued to be frustrated by some tough calls at the plate and walked the next batter, Marco Scutaro. Pablo Sandoval lined a single to left that loaded the bases and then Buster Posey stepped in to the box to put it out of reach.
Dusty Baker trusted Latos to get out of the inning, but still struggling to get good strikes, a fastball got too much of the plate on a 2-2 pitch and Posey sent it 434 feet into the seats in left for a grand slam.
When Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked if he considered taking Latos out, he said they did discuss it.
"Yeah, there was consideration," Baker said. "We discussed it and he just made a couple of bad pitches and he still had plenty left in the tank. He still had two strikes on Posey... and he just happened to throw one right down the middle."
Baker added they were hoping for a double play.
"Buster's hit into 19 double plays and we were hoping to get another double play at that time, but the pitch wasn't where he wanted it to be and it wasn't a double play pitch," Baker said.
Latos would leave the game, visibly defeated, but cheered by a roaring Great American Ball Park crowd of 44,142, the fourth largest in GABP history. He was the savior of Game 1 on three days rest when ace Johnny Cueto went down with an injury, but it wasn't to be in Game 5.
Sam LeCure replaced Latos and finished the inning clean, and the rest of the Reds bullpen did what they do best: Post zeros. Lefty Sean Marshall gave the Reds two solid shutout innings without allowing a hit, and Jonathan Broxton also shut down the Giants, allowing just 1 hit. Aroldis Chapman was called and also shut down the Giants.
The Reds inched back into the game in the bottom of the 5th, with a 2-RBI double by Brandon Phillips after Ryan Hanigan was hit by a pitch and Drew Stubbs singled him to second.
Again in the 6th the Reds crawled back into it, thanks to a Ryan Ludwick solo home run off a 2-2 Matt Cain curveball that stayed up, Ludwick's third home run of the series.
The Reds had another great chance immediately after Ludwick's home run when Jay Bruce drew a walk and Scott Rolen singled to center. With two men on, Ryan Hanigan put up a great fight, fouling off balls and being patient with pitches around the strike zone, but a questionable strike three call on a 3-2 pitch that the runners were going on delivered a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play from Posey to third.
Dusty Baker explained the attempted steal in a post-game interview.
"It was 3 2, and it looked like the pitch was outside," Baker said. "That changed the whole ballgame, but it was 3 2 with a [batter], one that rarely strikes out, and if [Hanigan] hits the ball on the ground it's an automatic double play. If he hits it on the ground and you don't run, it's a double play and if you do run and he misses it, it's still a double play. So we were trying to be aggressive at that time and stay out of the double play."
And the rest of the chances for the Reds fell short.
"We had [chances] in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th we had the tying run at the plate and just couldn't get that big hit," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They got the big hits in the 6th."
With Phillips still on 2nd base and only 1 out in the bottom of the 5th, Cozart flew out to center and Votto grounded out to the shortstop.
A Zack Cozart infield single and a Votto walk got runners on first and second with 1 out in the bottom of the 1st inning. But Ludwick and Bruce struck out back-to-back to end that inning.
Men on first and second thanks to singles by Phillips and Votto in the 7th was ended by a Ryan Ludwick ground out as well.
Again in the 8th, Rolen and pinch hitter Todd Frazier singled to center, but two great defensive plays in the inning prevented the Reds from getting anything across. Brandon Crawford dove to his right to save a hit from Ryan Hanigan, and Angel Pagan made a great sliding play in center to end the inning on a Dioner Navarro pinch-hit line drive.
The Reds made it interesting in the 9th after Cozart drew a walk and Joey Votto singled to get them both aboard with 1 out. Ryan Ludwick then singled home Cozart to draw the Reds one closer and a 12-pitch at-bat by Jay Bruce saw him fight off a lot of Giants closer Sergio Romo's stuff, but he flew out to left on a 3-2 pitch for the second out and a strikeout by Rolen ended the Reds' chances.
The Reds still haven't won a home postseason game in 17 years, and this was the first time they dropped three straight games at Great American Ball Park this season.