Joaquin Arias hit a grounder toward third base and took off, covering those 90 feet in a blink as a full-to-capacity ballpark went silent with angst.
Which would get there first, the infielder or the ball? Who would win the decisive playoff dash?
“That’s the fastest I’ve ever run to first,” Arias said.
Fast enough to extend the Giants’ season one more day.
Reds third baseman Scott Rolen bobbled the short-hop, giving Arias enough time to beat the throw as the go-ahead run scored for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night that avoided an NL division series sweep.
Hardly able to get a hit the last two games, the Giants turned a passed ball and a misplayed grounder into a win that cut their series deficit to 2-1 and extended Cincinnati’s 17 years of home postseason futility.
“These are the type of games we’ve played all season long,” said Sergio Romo, who pitched the last two innings for the win. “We are a gritty and grinding team.”
And, with their season on the line, a little lucky, too.
“We got a break there at the end,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
Left-hander Barry Zito will pitch Game 4 today for the Giants, who have won the last 11 times he started. The Reds have 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.
They were hoping to avoid having to make that choice. One grounder forced the issue.
The Giants managed only three hits against Homer Bailey and the Reds 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 come up with 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. One win away from making it back there, they couldn’t beat a Giants team that has barely been able to get a hit.
As gritty as Ryan Vogelsong’s performance was Tuesday, the Giants’ bullpen did him one better.
Four relievers — Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo — combined to allow just one hit over the final five innings, preventing any chance of the Cincinnati Reds sweeping the division series.
“The team has confidence in me when I’m in the game,” said Romo, who along with Affeldt tossed two scoreless innings. “We have confidence in everybody. But the thing is we’ve got to get it done. We’re playing every day.”
It was a stark contrast for the first two games for the Giants’ pen, which had allowed two runs in Game 1 and five runs in Game 2.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated he wouldn’t hesitate to use either Romo or Affeldt again today if the need arises.
“Really both of them, Affeldt and Romo, even though they went two innings they were fairly efficient, so we’re in the same mode,” Bochy said.
Cueto a question mark: Johnny Cueto’s bad back has left the Cincinnati Reds in a lurch for Game 4 today. Manager Dusty Baker said after the game that they hadn’t decided whether to let Cueto try to pitch, bring back Mat Latos on short rest again, or replace Cueto with Mike Leake, who wasn’t on the division series roster.
Notes: Game 3 started 3 minutes late because a sign-waving fan ran onto the field. He was tackled by police in center field. ... The 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. ... Reds starter Homer Bailey fanned six in a row, matching the Reds’ postseason record. His 10 total strikeouts were also a team postseason record. — Staff, wire report