11:17 PM EDT, October 9, 2012
CINCINNATI — Hensley Meulens must be a very happy man.
Throughout Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the Giants hitting coach was one timely hit away from the flight of shame home to San Francisco. Buster Posey and his teammates were being dominated, but they caught a break. Maybe a huge break.
When Scott Rolen couldn't field a tricky two-hopper in the 10th inning Tuesday night, the Giants got an unearned run across the plate and beat the Reds 2-1. They not only held off elimination, but now it's the Reds' turn to sweat.
The Giants are hitting .126 in the series, but they are only two years removed from riding guys like Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Javier Lopez to a World Series title. Maybe they can do it again.
"It's definitely less frustrating when we win,'' Posey said of scoring four runs in three games. His leadoff single started the winning rally, although Reds manager Dusty Baker was accurate when he referred to subsequent developments as "just a series of bad events.''
Losing your ace eight pitches into October counts as a bad event too. While the Reds initially downplayed the Johnny Cueto injury Saturday, it seems huge now.
The Reds changed Cueto's diagnosis to a strained oblique muscle before Tuesday's game, which left him unlikely to start Game 4. He could be dropped off the roster altogether.
Baker hasn't named a starter for Game 4 on Wednesday, which was scheduled to be Homer Bailey before the Reds had to use both Cueto and Mat Latos in Game 1. The choices, according to Baker, are Latos on three days' rest for a second straight time or fifth starter Mike Leake, who is not on the playoff roster.
Leake can replace Cueto but Cueto then would be ineligible for the National League Championship Series, if the Reds advance. It's a conundrum that Baker could see coming but hoped to avoid.
"It's very difficult, but it all depends if your ace can't go or whatever it is,'' Baker said. "You have go with the healthy bodies. You hate missing (him in the next round). That's part of the consideration, us going without him.'' '
While Baker and general manager Walt Jocketty weigh their options, the Giants will have 15-game winner Barry Zito going in Game 4 with Cain set for Game 5 and two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum available out of the bullpen.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy is thrilled that matters.
"It's obvious,'' Bochy said. "This game, it was do or die for us,'' he said. "I don't know what they're going to do on the other side, but this was a game we had to throw everything at them. … I don't know what will happen (Wednesday) but we had to win today.''
With Bailey pitching as well as in his Sept. 28 no-hitter in Pittsburgh, the Reds should have put away the Giants. He had 10 strikeouts, including six in a row at one point, and allowed only one hit, Marco Scutaro's sixth-inning single to right field.
"Bailey was really good,'' Posey said. "He was throwing the ball hard. He was hiding it well. He was sinking it, cutting it and four-seaming it.''
The Reds had a chance to break to a large lead early but got only one run off Ryan Vogelsong when four of their first five hitters reached base. The key moment was when Brandon Phillips was caught trying to take an extra base. He was running on a pitch and had second stolen but kept going when the ball went past Posey and was out at third.
Posey said he was surprised to see Phillips still running but Baker endorsed the play.
"Brandon's a heads-up baserunner,'' he said. "He thought he had a chance to make a play but the ball came right back to Buster Posey.''
Posey scored the winning run by going from second to third on a Ryan Hanigan passed ball and the two-out error by Rolen, who has won eight Gold Gloves. The good news for Meulens was there were two hits in that inning, including one from a limping Hunter Pence, who Bochy said is battling recurring cramps.
The Giants have 12 hits in three games, but it's tougher to measure the hope they will carry to the plate to face Leake, Latos or a surprise guest.
"There is no lack of belief on this team,'' reliever Sergio Romo said. "We believe in ourselves, and we go out there and play hard. The emotion is definitely there.''
Imagine how high it will be if they can force a Game 5.