Cain struggles as Giants lose Game 1 5-2 to Reds

An uncharacteristic start from ace Matt Cain has left the San

Francisco Giants in unfamiliar territory to start this postseason

run.

Cain gave up home runs to Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce for the

first earned runs he has ever allowed in the postseason, and the

Giants find themselves trailing a playoff series for a change

following a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NL

division series on Saturday night.

”He wasn’t as sharp as he normally is,” manager Bruce Bochy

said. ”He left up a couple of pitches up that they took advantage

of and the ball left the park. … He was missing spots a little

bit. I think that’s fair to say tonight.”

Cain was a reliable workhorse during the Giants’ run to the

World Series title two years ago, allowing no earned runs in 21 1-3

innings. That was a big reason why San Francisco never trailed in a

series on the way to beating Atlanta, Philadelphia and Texas for

the franchise’s first championship since moving West in 1958.

But Cain was unable to outduel Cincinnati’s patchwork pitching

staff after starter Johnny Cueto left with back spasms just eight

pitches in. Sam LeCure pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings for the win,

scheduled Game 3 starter Mat Latos allowed only a solo homer by

Buster Posey in four innings and the Reds stellar bullpen did the

rest to take a 1-0 series lead.

”I made some bad pitches to put these guys in a hole,” Cain

said. ”That’s my fault.”

The loss by the Giants capped a down day in the Bay Area. The

Oakland Athletics lost the opener of their AL division series 3-1

in Detroit.

Cincinnati came up with the kind of pitching Cain delivered

throughout the 2010 postseason, when he allowed just one unearned

run in three starts. He picked up where he left off to start,

retiring the first four batters with two strikeouts.

But he ran into trouble in the third when No. 8 hitter Drew

Stubbs led off with a single and scored on Phillips’ one-out homer

to left-center. It was the third homer Cain has allowed to Phillips

and ended his postseason stretch without an earned run at 23 1-3

innings – fifth longest ever.

Bruce, who has a .462 regular season average against Cain, added

to the lead for the Reds with a leadoff homer in the fourth to give

the Reds a 3-0 lead.

That marked just the second time the past two seasons that Cain

allowed two homers in a game at home with the other coming on June

29 against Cincinnati. Half of his six losses this season have come

against the Reds.

”The pitch to Bruce wasn’t too terrible but the hanging

breaking ball to Phillips is just something that you don’t want to

happen in a big-game situation like this,” Cain said. ”Hanging

breaking balls in these games always hurt a little more.”

Cain was then lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning,

having allowed three runs and five hits. He threw only 75 pitches

and might be able to come back on short rest in Game 4.

But the Giants need to win a game to get the series that far.

Madison Bumgarner will be counted on to help the Giants tie this

best-of-five series Sunday before it shifts to Cincinnati for the

final three games. He pitched a one-hitter against the Reds in

June.

Bumgarner went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA as a 21-year-old rookie in

the 2010 postseason and his 16 wins this season were the most for a

Giants lefty since Kirk Rueter in 1998. But Bumgarner had a 5.89

ERA in his final seven starts.

”I think it was a mechanical issue and I think we got it ironed

out,” he said before the game. ”If we don’t, don’t matter, just

got to go out there and compete.”

The Giants tried to rally late and put the tying run on base in

the eighth before Gregor Blanco struck out and ended that threat.

They then loaded the bases in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman.

Pablo Sandoval popped out and the fans started chanting ”M-V-P!”

for batting champ Posey. A wild pitch scored one run before Chapman

struck out Posey on a 100 mph fastball to end it.

”It’s going to be a grind,” Giants outfielder Hunter Pence

said. ”They have great pitching. They have a great bullpen. We

still have a lot of series left. They made some plays and they got

some breaks.”