Zito has chance to pull Giants even with Reds

Associated Press
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen throws to first base after fielding a ground ball hit by San Francisco Giants' Joaquin Arias in the 10th inning during Game 3 of the National League division baseball series, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, in Cincinnati. Rolen was charged with an error on the play allowing Buster Posey to score. The Giants won 2-1 in the 10th inning to cut their playoff deficit to 2-1. (AP Photo/Michael Keating)
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Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen throws to first base after fielding a ground ball hit by San …

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joaquin Arias hit the ball, put his head down and ran. All he knew was that the Giants' season depended upon how fast he made it to first.

"That's the fastest I've ever run to first," the infielder said.

He won the playoff dash, taking advantage of third baseman Scott Rolen's momentary bobble to beat the throw. Arias' foot hit the bag, and the Giants suddenly had a little hope.

After managing only one hit through the first nine innings, the Giants took advantage of a passed ball and Rolen's error in the 10th inning for a 2-1 victory that cut the Cincinnati Reds' lead in the division series to 2-1.

A team that's struggled just to get hits is suddenly feeling like it has a chance against long odds. The Giants are trying to become the first team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three straight on the road.

"I think we have to be really happy that we came away with a win tonight because we didn't swing the bats very well at all," said Buster Posey, who singled as part of the winning rally.

The Giants have struggled the last two games against Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, managing a total of three hits in the starters' 14 innings combined. They're not sure who's up next for the Reds, who haven't won a home playoff game in 17 years and now have a tough decision.

Left-hander Barry Zito will pitch Game 4 on Wednesday for San Francisco, which has won the last 11 times he started. The Reds had to decide whether to try ace Johnny Cueto, forced out of the opener in San Francisco on Saturday with spasms in his back and side.

Manager Dusty Baker said after the game that they hadn't decided whether to go with Cueto, bring back Mat Latos on short rest again, or replace Cueto with Mike Leake, who wasn't on the division series roster.

Switching out Cueto would leave the Reds ace ineligible to pitch in the championship series should the Reds get that far.

"It's very difficult, but it all depends on if your ace can't go or whatever it is," Baker said. "That's part of the conversation — us going without him. We realize what's at stake."

They were hoping to avoid having to make that choice. One grounder forced the issue.

The Giants managed only three hits against Bailey and the bullpen, but got two of them in the 10th — along with a passed ball by Ryan Hanigan — to pull it out. San Francisco won despite striking out 16 times.

Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glove winner, couldn't cleanly field Arias' grounder, which put him in a tough position.

"I've gone through the play many times in my mind between then and now, and I think I would play it the same way," Rolen said. "It hit my glove. I just couldn't get it to stick."

The Reds haven't won a home playoff game since 1995, the last time they reached the NL championship series. They scored a run in the first, then managed only one more hit the rest of the way, wasting another dominating performance by their pitching staff.

The Reds set a season high with 16 strikeouts. Bailey matched his career high by fanning 10 in seven innings, a franchise playoff record. He allowed only one single.

San Francisco's one-hit wonders finally got it going against Jonathan Broxton, who gave up leadoff singles by Posey — the NL batting champion — and Hunter Pence, who pulled his left calf on a wild swing before getting his hit.

With two outs, Hanigan couldn't come up with a pitch, letting the runners advance. Moments later, Cincinnati's chance for a sweep was over when Rolen bobbled the ball.

A Reds team that lost a lot — closer Ryan Madson in spring training, top hitter Joey Votto for six weeks at midseason, Baker for the NL Central clincher, Cueto in the first inning of the first playoff game — ended up with another playoff loss at home.

Baker was back in the home dugout at Great American for the first time in nearly a month, recovered from an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. After a pregame ovation, he settled in his red folding chair with a toothpick on his lips.

The 63-year-old manager watched his pitching staff dominate again, but fail to get that breakthrough win.

The second-largest crowd in Great American history was still getting the hang of playoff rooting. A video board message instructed the 44,501 fans not to wave white rally towels while the Reds were in the field — could be distracting.

Didn't take long to get those towels twirling. Brandon Phillips led off with a single, but was thrown out at third when he tried to advance on a ball that got away from Posey. It was costly — the Reds went on to score on a walk and a pair of singles, including Jay Bruce's RBI hit to right.

NOTES: The game started 3 minutes late because a sign-waving fan ran onto the field. He was tackled by police in center field. ... Giants avoided their third playoff sweep in franchise history. ... The Giants haven't lost three in a row since they dropped five straight from July 25-30. ... Tom Browning, who pitched the Reds' previous no-hitter — a perfect game against the Dodgers in 1988 — threw the ceremonial pitch. ... Bailey fanned six in a row, matching the Reds' postseason record. ... The only larger crowd at GABP was for the 2010 playoff game against Philadelphia.

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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