Cain only allowed five base runners, but three of them scored on a two-run homer by Brandon Phillips and a solo shot by Jay Bruce.
That was all the offense the Reds would need to muster against the Giants on Saturday night in their 5-2 victory.
Despite losing starting pitcher Johnny Cueto mid-way through the second hitter of the game to an apparent back injury, the Reds were able to limit the Giants offense to just two runs. Dusty Baker went to Sam LeCure to get through the remainder of the first two innings before turning to scheduled Game 3 starter Mat Latos for four innings of work.
Baker's bullpen use stymied the Giants offense. The Giants' best opportunity to take control of the game came in the second inning when Brandon Belt drew a two-out walk and Gregor Blanco followed with a double. Center fielder Drew Stubbs was able to cut the ball off in the gap to keep Belt from scoring. Baker then intentionally walked Brandon Crawford to get to Matt Cain, who hit a line drive right at right fielder Jay Bruce to end the threat.
The Giants again hit into bad luck in the fourth. After Hunter Pence led off with an infield single, Belt crushed a line drive right at Joey Votto for a rally-killing double play.
The breaks didn't go the Giants' way in their Game 1 loss. With only one home game left, they'll somehow have to win three of the next four games in this series to advance. The odds have shifted strongly into the Reds favor now that they have a 1-0 lead to go with their home field advantage.
Let's take a look at the grades for Game 1.
Baker's shrewd move to go with Latos on short rest out of the bullpen keyed the Reds victory.
Latos wasn't dominant. In his four innings of work, he only induced one strikeout. However, he was able to limit the damage to four hits, one walk, and one run on a Buster Posey solo homer.
Sam LeCure, who initially relieved the injured Cueto, allowed three base-runners in 1.2 innings of work, but stranded them all.
The Reds' vicious back-end trio of Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman shut the door on the Giants. All told, the Reds received 8.2 innings of two-run ball from their outstanding bullpen, which ranked first in all of baseball with a 2.65 ERA during the regular season.
It wasn't that Cain necessarily pitched poorly. However, the mistakes he made were costly. He hung a curve to Brandon Phillips that was blasted for the go-ahead two-run homer, ultimately the biggest moment in the game. Cain couldn't have placed the ball in a fatter position if he had walked the ball up to the plate and put it on a tee. Even worse, he got beat on the curve, which is the worst pitch in his arsenal.
Rookie reliever George Kontos delivered two perfect innings of work to keep it close for the Giants, but one-time closer Santiago Casilla yielded two runs in his lone inning of work in the ninth inning to allow the Reds to blow the game open, which loomed particularly large when Chapman let the Giants back in the game in the bottom of the inning.
Jay Bruce (2-for-4, double, home run, RBI, run) and Brandon Phillips, (3-for-4, two singles, home run, three RBI, run) led the way for the Reds, who knocked out the Giants number one starter after just five innings.
The Giants hit into a ton of bad luck, which cost them the game. It's tough to fault them for their effort, however.
Cain lined out to right with the bases loaded in the second. Pence hit two balls that were caught on the warning track, including one in the eighth inning that would have tied the game. Belt lined into a double play to kill a potential rally in the fourth inning, then was then robbed by left fielder Ryan Ludwick on a blooper that he hit in the sixth. Marco Scutaro lined out to Ludwick to end the seventh. Pablo Sandoval lined out to shortstop leading off the eighth inning.
Bad luck or not, the only offense they could muster was a Posey solo home run and another run in the ninth, which was not enough.
The Giants put more runners on than the Reds (14 to 12), but they left 11 men on base and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The Reds outhit (9-7), out-homered (2-1) and outscored the Giants (5-2), and that final stat is all that really counts at this point.
The Reds didn't make a ton of spectacular defensive plays, but their fielders were in the right place at the right time for most of the night.
Stubbs ran down a ball in the gap in center field to prevent a run. Ludwick made two nice catches in left field to prevent hits. Bruce and Cosart were well-positioned to catch line drives off the bats of Cain and Sandoval. Phillips made a heads-up-play to back up first base, which prevented Gregor Blanco from taking an extra base on a bunt single that was thrown away by Scott Rolen.
In the end, Reds pitching only struck out six Giants hitters on the night. Thus, on the 27 balls put into play by the Giants, the Reds converted 21 of them into outs, an outstanding 77.8 percent conversion ratio. On the season, the Reds outstanding defense converted 71.1 percent of balls in play into outs, twelfth best in the game.
Whether their performance Saturday night was good defense, good positioning, bad luck for the Giants or all of the above, it was enough to limit the Giants to just two runs and seven hits on the night.
Reds manager Dusty Baker understood the importance of winning Game 1 on the road. With three of the final four games of this series in Cincinnati, if the Reds could pull out the first game, they'd have a huge advantage going forward.
Thus, when ace starter Johnny Cueto went down, Baker was wise to bring in his second best starter, Mat Latos in the third inning to try to keep the Giants offense at bay.
While Latos wasn't his usual dominant self against the Giants, he bridged the gap to the Marshall-Broxton-Chapman triumvirate at the end of the game.
In the eighth inning with one on, two out and lefties Belt and Blanco coming up for the Giants, Baker stuck with the right-handed Broxton rather than turning the game over to the lefty closer Chapman at that point. Since Chapman battled shoulder woes down the stretch, perhaps Baker wants to limit his usage to one inning at a time.
However, if Chapman is fully healthy, Baker may need to consider using him in higher leveraged situations and for more than one inning through the remainder of the postseason.
However, on this night, Baker deserves credit for his bullpen handling, which propelled the Reds to a 5-2 victory.
During the postseason, the only goal is to win the World Series, so grades can only be based on the bottom line of winning and losing. Over the long grind of the 162-game season, there can be silver linings and moral victories; not so in the postseason.
Thus, while the Giants were competitive and unlucky in their 5-2 loss to the Reds, the fact that they lost and will have to win three of four against a very good opponent with only one home game remaining is really the bottom line.
The Reds put 12 men on base, but they drove in 5 of those with the aid of home runs by Phillips and Bruce.
Despite losing their ace starter to injury after a third of an inning, the bullpen work of LeCure, Latos, Marshall, Broxton and Chapman was enough to hold the Giants to two runs, even though Reds pitching allowed 14 men to reach base. When it mattered most, the pitching and defense bared down, stranding 11 Giants on the bases and holding them hit-less in five at-bats with men in scoring position.
Posey delivered a home run and a single for the Giants, but Chapman struck him out when Posey represented the tying run for the game's final out. Belt walked twice and Blanco reached base safely three times, but Broxton struck Blanco out looking to kill a rally in the bottom of the eighth.
The Reds won the first game of the series on the road to strengthen their home field advantage. They get an "A" for their winning effort.
The Giants lost at home with their best pitcher on the mound despite a valiant effort. That deserves an "F" for failure given the bottom line nature of postseason baseball.
The odds are now heavily stacked against the Giants. If they don't bounce back with a win behind Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, their postseason will be just about over, nearly as quickly as it began.