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SF@CIN Gm4: Bochy on decision to use Zito in Game 4

The Giants live to fight another day, and the Reds find themselves in a fight they would have liked to avoid.

The Reds' ace, Johnny Cueto, was ailing enough to get yanked from the postseason roster, leaving Mike Leake to replace him and take the Game 4 starting nod over a short-rested Mat Latos. Leake had an 8-9 record and pedestrian 4.58 ERA this season. The Reds did not have plans to use him in October, but, well, duty calls.

So you could say the Reds seem slightly vulnerable in their starting outlook.

That's why the Giants' accomplishment Tuesday -- a 2-1, 10-inning victory in spite of an effort in which their bats were as cold as the 'Nati night -- could be more than just a brief interruption separating the Reds from a National League Championship Series berth.

It could be a series-shifter.

We'll find out for sure Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, where the Reds and Giants face off for Game 4 at 4 p.m. ET on TBS.

"I think we took out a little bit of pressure on ourselves," left fielder Gregor Blanco said after the Giants scraped their way through a potential elimination game. "That was a really important win for us, because we wanted to break the momentum they had. [Game 4] I think is going to be a different kind of game, and we're going to step up."

Confidence is a funny and fleeting thing.

The Giants were feeling it in spite of a three-hit effort Tuesday. They were feeling it because they beat the Reds -- and, just as importantly, didn't beat themselves -- with everything on the line.

And in the other clubhouse?

Well, the confidence still exists, unmistakably. Yet the Reds also knew they had let an important opportunity slip away. They didn't adequately back a brilliant outing from Homer Bailey, who allowed just one hit in seven innings, and they made two costly defensive miscues -- catcher Ryan Hanigan's passed ball and Scott Rolen's error on a tough hop -- in the 10th to let the Giants bring home the go-ahead run.

On any night in any season, such developments would be a source of frustration. But this was a particularly vexing loss, because this was an opportunity to efficiently eliminate a 94-win sleeping, er, Giant. This was an opportunity to buy some rest for a starting unit shaken and stirred by Cueto's mild oblique strain. This was an opportunity to create a celebration 17 years in the making -- the Reds' first postseason series victory since 1995.

That latter opportunity still exists, of course. The crowd at Great American Ball Park will be no less raucous when that first pitch of Game 4 is thrown, and the Giants will still be feeling the pressure of avoiding an early exit.

But the Reds will now be feeling their own percentage of pressure, because a Game 5 is a coin-flip fate no team wants to face, even at home.

"You've got to go out there and win just one game, that's it," Brandon Phillips said of the Game 4 outlook. "Just play the game and not worry about anything."

The Reds, though, have plenty of concern about their rotation outlook, even though Latos, Arroyo and Bailey have stepped up in a big way thus far this series. And there has to be some concern over the way the bats were befuddled by Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants' bullpen in Game 3, looking more like the Reds of September (who scored fewer runs than any other team in the Majors that month) than the Reds of Games 1 and 2.

"I have a lot of confidence in all our guys," Hanigan said. "That's how it's going to have to be. I don't know how [Cueto] is feeling and hopefully he'll be back soon. Until then, we're going to go with what we've got. Everyone has pitched well, and I have a lot of confidence in everybody."

Both of these clubs have confidence, as well as concerns. Beyond the unsettled rotation situation, the Reds still aren't getting any power production from Joey Votto, and that alters the outlook for the lineup.

And the Giants, beyond their obvious issues at the plate (they're batting a ghastly .126 in this series) have yet to see a starter get past the fifth. That takes a toll on a bullpen that's had to mix and match.

All that instability adds to the intrigue of Game 4. Going into October, these looked like two pretty evenly matched clubs. But the Reds, to their credit, took it to the Giants quite convincingly in AT&T Park and threatened to run away with the NLCS berth that's on the line here.

What we have now is a series, legitimately. A series in which the pressure seems equally shared. The Reds are pretty desperate the wrap this thing up, the Giants are desperate to keep it going.

The fight has just begun. Comments