Nationals

Giants 1 win away from swiping series from Reds

201210101653608327981-p2.jpeg

Giants 1 win away from swiping series from Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) With an out-of-character win, the San Francisco Giants are on the verge of an unprecedented comeback.

And everybody in Cincinnati is saying: Uh-oh.

Angel Pagan hit the first leadoff homer in Giants postseason history, and Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval connected later for an 8-3 victory over the Reds on Wednesday that evened their NL division series at 2-all.

After dropping their first two at home, the resourceful Giants have moved one victory away from the NL championship series - unthinkable when they landed in town on Monday. 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.

This one can do it with a victory on Thursday 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, who has a little personal history against the Giants. He was with San Diego in 2010 when the Giants eliminated San Diego on their way to a World Series title.

That offseason, Latos signed three baseballs with ``I Hate SF!'' as part of a fundraiser for the major league players' alumni association. After Wednesday's game, his wife, Dallas, tweeted: ``2010 Padres are not the 2010 Reds.''

There's plenty of angst to go around town. The Reds haven't won a postseason game at home in 17 years, going 0-3. They also dropped a one-game playoff for the NL wild card to the Mets in 1999.

One thing in their favor - they haven't dropped three straight 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 barely able to get a hit, let alone a win, while dropping the first two games. The pressure pulled them closer. Hunter Pence gathered them for inspirational speeches before the two games in Cincinnati.

``We feel good,'' NL batting champion Buster Posey said. ``When you're down 0-2 you see what you're made of. We're not done.''

It wasn't all about the offense. San Francisco's overlooked Cy Young winner played a starring role, too.

Tim 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 up 3-2, and kept going. The right-hander struck out six while allowing just one run in 4 1-3 innings.

``I knew he would play a huge role in this,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``And I know of other situations where starters have been in the `pen and really done a great job to help their team win. We knew Timmy would play a critical role in the series like he did tonight.''

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 Cincinnati wins Game 5 and reaches the NL championship series.

The way the Giants have started hitting, that's now in doubt.

They broke out against Mike Leake, who replaced Cueto and had a rough time. Leake threw his first career complete game in San Francisco on June 29 and was 3-0 career against the Giants.

Pagan homered to start it off for the Giants. Blanco hit a two-run shot in the second. The Giants had another breakthrough in the fifth, when back-to-back doubles by Joaquin Arias and Pagan ended an 0-for-14 slump with runners in scoring position during the series.

Sandoval's two-run shot in the seventh made it 8-3, matched the Giants' season high for homers and drew loud boos from the crowd of 44,375 - the third-largest at Great American Ball Park. Fans quietly settled into their seats and used their white rally towels as lap warmers against the evening chill.

The Giants normally don't hit many homers - only 103 during the season, fewest in the majors. They're only the seventh team since 1900 to reach the playoffs after finishing last in the majors in homers.

While the offense went to work, Lincecum bailed out the bullpen.

Bochy didn't hesitate to put the guys he wanted on the mound, using four pitchers in the first four innings. Lincecum settled things down, giving up only two hits in his second relief appearance of the series.

He threw 42 strikes out of 55 pitches and even batted twice - just like a starter.

``The last two games, it's been about scratching and leaving it on the field,'' Lincecum said.

NOTES: The Reds honored RHP Homer Bailey on the field before the game for his no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, presenting him and C Ryan Hanigan with framed photo montages. ... LH Barry Zito started and lasted only 2 2-3 innings, his shortest postseason appearance. ... San Francisco has won each of Zito's last 12 starts. ... The Giants hit three homers in a game eight times during the regular season.

---

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

Quick Links

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

bruno_fernando.png
USA Today Sports Images

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

Best highlight video:

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: