Giants 8, Reds 3
Angel Pagan homers on the second pitch of the game. A San Francisco Giants team that finished last in homers goes on to hit three. Tim Lincecum pitches like a two-time Cy Young winner — this time, out of the bullpen.
So many unusual things moved the Giants to the verge of an unprecedented comeback.
Pagan hit the first leadoff homer in Giants postseason history, and Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval homered later for an 8-3 victory over the host Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday that evened their National League Division Series at 2-2.
No team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three on the road, according to STATS LLC. The Giants can do it with a victory today at Great American Ball Park.
“Thanks to the win today, there will be a tomorrow,” Pagan said. “And we are ready for that.”
Matt Cain, who lost the series opener and has yet to beat the Reds in three tries this season, will start Game 5 against Mat Latos.
Facing elimination, the Giants’ slumping hitters came out swinging and extended the Reds’ playoff misery. The Reds haven’t won a postseason game at home in 17 years.
One thing in the Reds’ favor — they haven’t dropped three in a row at home all season.
“I’d like to think that we still have the advantage,” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. “We’re at home. I expect Mat to come up with a big game. I’m looking forward to it.”
So are the Giants, who were down after losing the first two games at home while getting outscored 14-2. They were barely able to get a hit, let alone a win.
It wasn’t all about the offense. San Francisco’s overlooked Cy Young winner played a starring role, too.
Lincecum was relegated to the bullpen for the playoff series because of his dreary season — 15 losses, 17 wild pitches. He entered in the fourth inning, pitched out of a threat that kept the Giants ahead 3-2, and kept going. The right-hander struck out six while allowing just one run in 4⅓ innings.
The Reds were hoping to start ace Johnny Cueto, but had to drop him off the roster a few hours before Wednesday’s first pitch because he was still bothered by a strained muscle in his right side. He won’t be available if the Reds win Game 5 and reach the NL Championship Series.
Cardinals 8, Nationals 0
Chris Carpenter was every bit the postseason ace he’s been in the past for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Taking the mound for only the fourth time in 2012, missing a rib after surgery to cure numbness on his right side, Carpenter, 37, pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning, rookie Pete Kozma delivered a three-run homer, and the defending champion Cardinals beat the host Washington Nationals 8-0 to take a 2-1 lead in their National League Division Series.
All in all, quite a damper on the day for a Nationals Park-record 45,017 red-wearing, towel-twirling fans witnessing the first major-league postseason game in the nation’s capital in 79 years.
Three relievers finished the shutout for the Cardinals, who can end the best-of-five series in today’s Game 4 at Washington.
Kyle Lohse will start for the Cardinals. Ross Detwiler will pitch for the Nationals.
Carpenter returned Sept. 21, going 0-2 in three starts totaling 17 innings, so it wasn’t clear how he’d fare Wednesday. Carpenter allowed seven hits and walked two in his 5⅔ innings to improve to 10-2 in his career in the postseason.
With the exception of Ian Desmond — 3-for-4 on Wednesday, 7-for-12 in the series — the Nationals’ hitters are struggling mightily. They’ve scored a total of seven runs in the playoffs and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base in Game 3.
Rookie phenom Bryce Harper’s woes, in particular, stand out: He went 0-for-5, dropping to 1-for-15.
Nationals starter Edwin Jackson recovered from a rough start to retire eight of his last 10 batters.
Still, Jackson was done after five innings and four runs. The Cardinals tacked on four runs off relievers Craig Stammen, Christian Garcia and Ryan Mattheus.