Offense erupts as Giants rout Reds to force Game 5

Andrew Weber/US PresswireGiants slugger Pablo Sandoval broke through with three hits

Facing elimination again, the Giants came out swinging. Got a saving relief appearance from Tim Lincecum, too.

Angel Pagan led off the game with a home run, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval connected later and the Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 on Wednesday, evening their NL Division Series at 2-2.

Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner relegated to the bullpen, also delivered. He entered in the fourth with the Giants ahead 3-2, struck out six while giving up just one run in
4¹?³ innings, and allowed his team to pull away.

“I knew he would play a huge role in this,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And I know of other situations where starters have been in the ’pen and really done a great job to help their team win. We knew Timmy would play a critical role in the series like he did tonight.”

The Giants can complete an unprecedented comeback today. No team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three on the road, according to STATS LLC.

“Thanks to the win today, there will be a tomorrow,” Pagan said. “And we are ready for that.”

The Giants’ hitters emerged from a series-long slump and extended Cincinnati’s playoff misery. The Reds haven’t won a postseason game at home in 17 years.

One thing in the Reds’ favor — they haven’t dropped three straight at home all season.

“I’d like to think that we still have the advantage,” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. “We’re at home. I expect Mat [Latos] to come up with a big game. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Reds were hoping to start ace Johnny Cueto, but had to drop him off the roster a few hours before Wednesday’s first pitch because he was still bothered by a strained muscle in his right side. He won’t be available if Cincinnati wins Game 5 and reaches the NL Championship Series.

The way the Giants have started hitting, that’s now in doubt.

San Francisco managed only four runs in the first three games of the series. The Giants avoided the sweep by pulling out a 2-1 win in 10 innings on Tuesday night with the help of a passed ball and an error by third baseman Scott Rolen.

They broke out against Mike Leake, who replaced Cueto and had a rough time.

Pagan homered on his second pitch of the game. Blanco hit a two-run shot in the second. The Giants had another breakthrough in the fifth, when back-to-back doubles by Joaquin Arias and Pagan ended an 0-for-14 slump with runners in scoring position during the series.

Sandoval’s two-run shot in the seventh made it 8-3.

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