Reds dodge a bullet, beat Giants in NLDS Game 1 after starter Johnny Cueto goes down with injury

SAN FRANCISCO - Reds fans collectively had their hearts skip a beat when Johnny Cueto came off the mound grimacing on his eighth pitch of the 2012 postseason, coming out of the game in the 1st inning with an injury and calling into question the Reds' playoff hopes.

The Reds dusted themselves off, went straight to their best-in-the-league bullpen and got the job done in a 5-2 defeat of the San Francisco Giants to take a 1-0 lead in the NLDS.

 

"When Johnny went down, I was like: 'Gosh, oh no, we're done. Why? Why? Why?'" Brandon Phillips said. "We're out there talking, and we're like, 'Let's win this for Johnny.'"

The Reds called on Sam LeCure (1-0) to use the defibrillator on Reds fans, and he made sure to deliver, pitching two shutout innings and earning the win. Dusty Baker then called on Mat Latos on three days rest to keep the Giants at bay for the next four innings, and he was brilliant, giving up just one run on a home run to Giants catcher Buster Posey.

The Reds offense showed up in many of the same ways it has all year on the backs of two home runs in back-to-back innings; a two-run shot by Brandon Phillips in the 3rd and a deep solo shot to right-center by Jay Bruce in the 4th. Phillips struck again with an RBI single in the 9th and two miscues between Giants reliever Santiago Casilla and catcher Buster Posey led to the fifth run on a wild pitch followed by a passed ball.

The Reds' bullpen lived up to its name even after the early call, allowing just one run with four different relief pitchers.

Aroldis Chapman did make it interesting in the bottom of the 9th by loading the bases on a single by pinch hitter Joaquin Arias, a pair of walks and a pitch that got by Hanigan to score a run, but he shut the door with a 100 mph fastball on Buster Posey, who was the tying run.

For the Giants, other than Posey's home run and Gregor Blanco's 2-3 performance with a double and a walk drawn, their bats were relatively flat, contrary to how they had been playing down the stretch.

Starting pitcher Matt Cain (0-1) didn't have his best stuff early, and the Reds took advantage of some hanging breaking balls. He gave up the first earned runs in the postseason of his career after going untouched in the Giants 2010 World Series run.

One-time Giants closer Casilla left his fastballs too much over the plate in the 9th, allowing the Reds to put the game out of reach late.

Ryan Ludwick made two great defensive plays in left that were momentum killers for the packed house of more than 43,000 at AT&T Park.

Giants RF Hunter Pence made a great play in foul territory early on as well, laying out over a railing on the first-base side to record an out.

Cueto, who was on the short list of NL Cy Young candidates most of 2012, reportedly has back spasms and is listed as day-to-day.

Cueto said after the game that he felt a sharp pain in his right side, but he thinks he will play again in the playoffs.

"I'm feeling a lot better now," Cueto said through an interpreter during a post-game interview.

The Reds could  incorporate Mike Leake into the playoff rotation if Cueto can't make his next start, but the rotation has already been shuffled thanks to the need for Latos in Game 1. Homer Bailey will likely move up to pitch Game 3, which Latos was scheduled to start.

"I feel really proud about my team. I feel proud about the pitchers," Cueto said. "They all came in and did their job."

The Reds had been the only team in the majors to use only five starters all year, with the exception of a sixth during a day-night doubleheader.

This is the Reds' first win in the postseason since 1995.

Game 2 starts at 9:37 p.m. EDT Sunday with Madison Bumgarner on the mound for the Giants and Bronson Arroyo scheduled for the Reds. Bumgarner 1-hit the Reds back in June.

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