Giants slam Reds to complete historic comeback
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey celebrates with teammates Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan after hitting a grand slam home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the 5th inning of Game 5 in their MLB NLDS playoff baseball series in Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 11, 2012. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)
“There’s one thing we aren’t worried about if we advance,” said a scout whose team is still alive in post-season play before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
“The Reds’ first baseman, right now he’s hitting like Wade Boggs: Single up the middle, flare to left. He’s not the home run threat he used to be.”
Joey Votto again had two hits — a single up the middle in the seventh and a flare to left in the ninth — as the San Francisco Giants scored six times in the fifth inning for a 6-4 win in the deciding game of the best-of-five National League division series before 44,142 fans at Great American Ballpark yesterday afternoon.
The win earns the Giants a berth in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.
Etobicoke’s own spent seven weeks on the disabled list with a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and then had an unexpected second surgery after injuring his knee while sliding.
Boggs is in the Hall of Fame as a spray hitter, yet the Reds signed Votto to a 10-year, $225-million contract extension in April to hit souvenirs. Since Votto returned Sept. 3, he has not been the force that hit 37 homers two years ago when he won the NL MVP award.
“When it came to power, I was probably 75% healthy. As far as being fully recovered, and feeling good each day, I was about 90%,” said Votto while sitting in his chair with two Louisville Sluggers resting against his leg, not yet ready to remove his white batting gloves for a final time.
The Reds returned from the coast with a 2-0 lead in the series and dropped three straight — the first time a team had come home to lose three in a row.
“When I came back, I had two choices: Try to hit home runs, which I couldn’t generate enough power to do,” said Votto, “or shrink things down and either hit a single or draw a walk.”
Votto has not been able to slide on his left leg since the injury, having to learn to slide on his right side. He could not fully crouch the way he used to, to dig balls out of the dirt or field ground balls.
“Anybody that’s ever had a knee problem, especially during the season, it’s tough to recover from,” said manager Dusty Baker on Votto. “Joey works as hard as anybody. He’s healthy but he’s not as strong as he was before and he probably won’t be as strong until into next season. Right now he’s doing what he can do, he’s healthy as he can be.”
Votto led the Reds in the NLDS with a .389 average (7-for-18), but hit seven singles, went homerless and did not drive in a run.
“I was doing okay before I got hurt,” said Votto.
“I’m proud to be a Cincinnati Red, to hear those fans cheering us in the ninth. We have to give them a better show next season.”
After pitching four scoreless innings, Reds starter Mat Latos lost his composure in the fifth, thinking an 0-2 pitch to Gregor Blanco was a called strike three.
The Reds’ dugout thought so, too. Tom Hallion, the plate ump, called it a ball. Blanco singled and, after falling behind Brandon Crawford 2-0 — two pitches Latos thought were strikes — Crawford belted a triple, his first hit of the series.
Latos flapped his arms after the Blanco single and stomped the mound. But things didn’t improve. Shortstop Zach Cozart clanked a grounder and Latos issued a walk and a single to load the bases. Buster Posey unloaded on them, a grand slam and a 6-0 lead.
The Reds tried to make a game of it, but left eight men on base in the final five innings, going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Meanwhile, Giants starter Matt Cain pitched 52/3 innings for the win while Sergio Romo worked 11/3 innings for the save.
WHAT THE CHARTS MISSED
Walt Jocketty was saying that the heat he took for trading for Latos to Cincinnati had died down on Monday. The Reds sent three former No. 1 picks — Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal plus Edinson Volquez — to San Diego for Latos, who was 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA.
The cold, hard print-outs show Latos throws a fastball clocked at 93 mph, sometimes 95. What those charts don’t show is his composure.
More than 20 scouts were watching the Giants and Reds, prepping for possible matchups. “Can you imagine the poor Orioles?” said one about New York’s 3-2 win over Baltimore on Wednesday. “You get a great pitching performance like that, the Yankees don’t have either Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez on the field in extra innings — and the Yankees still win.” ... “Is Boston serious about hiring Tim Wallach as its manager or trying to put pressure on the Blue Jays to lower the price on John Farrell?” asked another.