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Thanks for some sterling relief work from Tim Lincecum (yes, Tim Lincecum), the San Francisco Giants have a solid shot at winning their Division Series despite losing the first two games at home.
In a Game 4 they simply had to win, the San Francisco Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 and sent their Division Series to a decisive Game 5. After losing Games 1 and 2 at home -- and scoring only two runs in the process -- the Giants have now won two straight in Cincinnati, including Wednesday's convincing victory and a razor-thin win Tuesday.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the Giants won Game 4 going away, even though starting pitcher Barry Zito couldn't survive the third inning. Zito issued four walks, allowed seven baserunners when there were two outs, and finally Bruce Bochy had seen enough. After Zito's departure, relievers George Kontos, Jose Mijares, and Tim Lincecum combined for 6⅓ scoreless innings.
Tim Lincecum, especially.
Yanked from the Giants' rotation for this series, Lincecum pitched effectively out of the bullpen in Game 1 (a loss) and pitched really effectively in Game 4. He took over with two outs in the fourth and two Reds aboard, escaped that jam, and kept pitching until the game seemed safe. His final line: 4⅓ innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 6 strikeouts. And quite deservedly, one big W.
Meanwhile, the Reds had their own pitching problems which wound up being a lot worse than the Giants'. With Mat Latos unavailable to start because of his Game 1 relief stint -- in turn, because of Johnny Cueto's injury -- the Reds turned to No. 5 starter Mike Leake in Game 4. Leake gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, Angel Pagan, and another to Gregor Blanco in the second inning.
Leake finally got yanked in the fifth, shortly after giving up Pagan's RBI double that gave the Giants a 4-2 lead and, as it turned out, all the runs they would need. The Giants scored again in the fifth, and put the contest out of reach in the seventh when Pablo Sandoval hit a long and towering two-run homer off Jose Arredondo (note to self-- don't throw Panda letter-high fastballs).
Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth for the Giants. When he retired Ryan Ludwick on a pop foul, the game was over and the Giants had taken two straight with a chance for three. Thursday at 1:07 Eastern, the Reds will host the Giants in a winner-take-all match. Latos will start for Cincinnati, ace Matt Cain for the Giants. It should be a hoot.