John Clay: Reds surrounded by uncertainty despite 2-1 series lead

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 9, 2012 

  • Mets at Reds

    When: 12:35 p.m. Wednesday

    Pitchers: Mets, Matsuzaka (2-3); Reds, Latos (14-6)

    TV, radio: WVLK-FM 101.5

CINCINNATI — It's an odd scenario when a team can be up in a post-season baseball series, one win from advancing, and still be down.

Yet that was the feeling Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park after the home-standing Cincinnati Reds got sloppy in the 10th inning and dropped a 2-1 decision to the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of their NL Divisional Series.

After winning the first two games in San Francisco, the Reds still lead the series. Ah, but that lead feels as tenuous as the indecision surrounding the Cincinnati starting pitcher for Wednesday's Game 4, scheduled to start at 4:07 p.m.

"As of right now, we're not sure yet," said Manager Dusty Baker immediately after the game. "We're going to go in and discuss it and come up with a solution."

Their options?

"Right now, it would probably be Mat Latos, the second time he'd be going on three days' rest. And Mike Leake. Those are probably the options," Baker said.

If the Reds decide on Leake, that means that Johnny Cueto probably would have to be taken off the roster and would not be eligible for the next series, the National League Championship Series, if the Reds advance.

"That's part of the consideration, you know, us going without him," Baker said. "We realize what's at stake and that's part of the decision: if we think he's going to be able to go in the next series."

Cueto, the Reds' ace, suffered what the Reds are calling a "slight" strain of his oblique after throwing just eight pitches in Game 1 of the series out in San Francisco.

In September, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart missed significant time with what what was described as a "slightly strained oblique."

Latos, expected to be the Game 3 starter, came on in the third inning the night Cueto was injured and pitched four innings of one-run baseball.

There were reports Monday that Latos was suffering from flu-like symptoms, but the right-hander said those were not accurate, that he was only experiencing some congestion.

Now you know why, for a team with a 2-0 lead that wasted a brilliant pitching performance by Homer Bailey, Tuesday night's loss was important.

"I don't know what they're going to do over there, but I know what we had to do," Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had to win. We had no other choice."

And somehow, facing elimination, the Giants found a way to win despite getting just one hit off Bailey, who at one point fanned six batters in a row — the first Red to do so in the post-season since 1919 — and ended up with 10 strikeouts.

"That's the best I've seen him," said Baker, who was in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke when Bailey pitched his no-hitter at Pittsburgh on Sept. 28.

"We couldn't do anything with him," Bochy said. "He had great command, was hitting his spots."

But after scoring a run in the first, the Reds couldn't do anything with Giants' starter Ryan Vogelsong, or relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo. Cincinnati managed one hit after the first inning.

Worse, the home team lost it on an unearned run.

After Buster Posey and Hunter Pence led off the San Francisco 10th with singles, reliever Jonathan Broxton settled down to fan Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady.

But catcher Ryan Hanigan was charged with a passed ball, allowing the runners to move up to second and third.

Then Joaquin Arias hit a grounder to third baseman Scott Rolen, who had the surprise short hop go off his chest. Arias beat the throw. Posey scored from third. A San Francisco lead. Ultimately, a San Francisco win.

"The guys were excited," Bochy said. "We were facing our last game possibly, and we persevered."

Now, it is the Reds who have to persevere through injury and uncertainty. And the feeling that even with a 2-1 series lead, they might be playing from behind.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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