CINCINNATI — Facing elimination again, the San Francisco Giants came out swinging. Got a saving relief appearance from Tim Lincecum, too.
Angel Pagan led off the game with a home run, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval connected later, and the Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds, 8-3, on Wednesday, knotting up their NL Division Series at 2-all.
Lincecum, who went from being a star pitcher for the Washington Huskies to a two-time Cy Young winner, was relegated to the bullpen before the series with the Reds had started. He entered in the fourth with the Giants ahead 3-2, struck out six while giving up just one run in 4 innings, and allowed his team to pull away.
“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.”
San Francisco can complete an unprecedented comeback today. 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.
“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.
The Giants’ hitters emerged from a series-long slump and extended Cincinnati’s playoff misery. The Reds haven’t won a postseason game at home in 17 years.
One thing in Cincinnati’s favor – it hasn’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.”
Cincinnati was 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.
The way the Giants have started hitting, that’s now in doubt.
San Francisco managed only four runs in the first three games of the series. The Giants avoided the sweep by pulling out a 2-1 win in 10 innings on Tuesday night with the help of a passed ball and an error by Reds third baseman Scott Rolen.
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 had a 3-0 career record against the Giants.
Pagan homered on his second pitch of the game. Blanco hit a two-run shot in the second. San Francisco 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 for the series.
Sandoval’s two-run shot in the seventh made it 8-3, matched the Giants’ season high in homers and drew boos from the crowd of 44,375 at Great American Ball Park.