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Everyone in baseball was pretty sure they knew how important Johnny Cueto was to the Cincinnati Reds, but it became painfully obvious once he was gone. Only eight pitches into Game 1, Cincinnati's ace was removed due to back spasms (pictured). He never returned to the series against the San Francisco Giants, and the Reds were never the same.
At first, it did not affect the Reds. They won Game 1, by using a combination of their bullpen and probable Game 3 starter Mat Latos. They even won Game 2, on the strength of seven shutout innings by Bronson Arroyo.
But the ripple effects started to show in Game 3, as they were up 2-0 with a chance to sweep at home. They were actually under more pressure to win than the Giants, who were facing elimination. If the Reds advanced, they could deal with the uncertainty caused by Cueto's injury in the NLCS. But if they lost, they would be staring that uncertainty in the face, knowing they could not pencil in their ace for a big game start.
The Reds' reliable bullpen failed them in extra innings of Game 3, despite an outstanding start from Homer Bailey. And San Francisco jumped all over them in Game 4, setting up a decisive Game 5. Dusty Baker had saved Mat Latos for Game 5 instead of using him in Game 4, but it didn't matter because he wasn't good even with an extra days rest. The Reds lost Game 5, were swept at home and became the first National League team to blow a 2-0 lead in the LDS.