Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce each smashed home runs to help power the Cincinnati Reds over the San Francisco Giants 5-2 on Saturday in their Major League Baseball playoff series opener.
The Reds took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five National League series, with game two scheduled for yesterday. The series winner will meet either the Washington Nationals or St Louis Cardinals to decide a berth in the World Series final.
Cincinnati suffered a major setback early when starting pitcher Johnny Cueto departed with back spasms after retiring only one batter.
The 26-year-old Dominican right-hander made only eight pitches, but Reds officials said he could be healthy in time to start in game three tomorrow in Cincinnati.
“He had his head down a little,” Phillips said. “I went up to him and said: ‘Don’t be sad. We’re going to get this game for you.’”
Reliever Sam LeCure took the mound for the Reds and threw 1-2/3 scoreless innings to buy time for Mat Latos, the originally scheduled game three starter, to prepare himself before taking the mound in the third inning.
“I just hated to see Johnny in pain like that, but Sam bridged the gap,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Cincinnati took a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer by Phillips over the left-centerfield wall in the third off San Francisco starter Matt Cain.
“He left a hanging curve ball up there and I took advantage of it,” Phillips said.
Suddenly the shock loss of Cueto seemed less of a worry for the Reds.
“That gave us a big lift,” Baker said.
Phillips had three hits in all and singled in a run in the ninth for the Reds in the victory.
“I was just trying to make things happen for the team,” Phillips said. “We had a good day at the plate.”
Bruce added a solo homer off Cain in the fourth for a 3-0 Reds’ edge.
San Francisco’s Buster Posey smacked a solo homer in the sixth off Latos to pull the Giants within two runs.
However, the Reds added two runs in the ninth inning to stretch the lead to 5-1.
Phillips singled in Ryan Hanigan and, after a wild pitch, Giants catcher Posey missed a throw allowing Cincinnati’s Xavier Paul to score from third base.
Cuban left-handed relief ace Aroldis Chapman entered for the Reds in the ninth and surrendered a single and two walks to load the bases with one out.
The Giants’ Venezuelan slugger Pablo Sandoval hit a pop fly out and Posey came to the plate next. A wild pitch by Chapman allowed a San Francisco run to score, but Chapman then struck out Posey to end the game.