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Cincinnati Reds collapse under pressure

The San Francisco Giants had no business winning this series. The Cincinnati Reds collapsed after dominating the first two games on the road. Cincinnati had not lost three straight home games all season but do so in the first round of the playoffs? Even with the injury to ace Johnny Cueto, the Reds had to have this series. The Giant stole it from them and not because of their own heroic play.

Let’s break things down. The Reds two-hit the Giants in game two of the series and won 9-0. They headed home with a commanding 2-0 lead, knowing that they had played well at Great American Ballpark all season. Surely the series was over.

With a tremendous effort from Homer Bailey in game 3, the Giants only managed one hit through the first nine innings. They were fortunate to have the one run after Gregor Blanco was hit by a pitch and later scored on a sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately for the Reds, they had only mustered one run through nine innings as well, and the game went to extras. Jonathan Broxton took the mound in the 10th for the Reds and immediately allowed two singles. He should have gotten out of the jam, but with two outs eight-time gold glove winner Scott Rolen made a rare error that allowed the Giants to take the lead 2-1. This turned out to be the pivotal moment in the series as the Reds would eventually lose game 3. The Giants, having been one-hit through nine innings, had life because the Reds allowed it.

Cincinnati, seemingly demoralized, lost game 4 again at home 8-3 the next day.

Still, entering game 5, the Reds should have had some confidence having beaten Matt Cain all three times this season, including in game 1 of the series. Mat Latos was strong through the first four innings, but then hell broke loose in the 5th. Latos imploded on the mound. After allowing a leadoff single and then a triple, Latos got Cain to ground out. Reds shortstop Zack Cozart then botched an opportunity in the field, allowing another run to score. Latos walked Marco Scutaro, gave up a hit to Pablo Sandoval, and the bases were loaded for Buster Posey. Latos didn’t even turn to look at the ball as Posey launched a moonshot into left field, silencing the Cincinnati crowd. It was 6-0.

The Reds made an effort at a comeback but came up short in the 9th inning. Rolen struck out to end the game with the tying run on first base, and the Giants breathed a sigh of relief. The collapse was complete.

Cincinnati, having not lost three games in a row at home all season, choked on baseball’s biggest stage. There are no excuses for this team that won the NL Central by nine games. They should have swept away the Giants in three games, but the Reds gave them a chance. The Giants didn’t win the series, the Reds lost it.