SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have lost their rhythm. Correct that: It's actually right before their eyes. But the Cincinnati Reds have adopted it as their own and have no intention of returning it.Employing the Giants' formula for success -- resolute pitching and hits sprayed everywhere, especially with runners in scoring position -- the Reds have captured the first two games of the National League Division Series, including Sunday's 9-0 decision in Game 2. Suddenly silent on offense after a renaissance in the regular season's second half, the Giants mustered two hits while Madison Bumgarner yielded four runs in 4 1/3 innings. The net result was the Giants' worst postseason shutout in franchise history, eclipsing Danny Cox's 6-0 blanking for St. Louis that ended the 1987 NL Championship Series. Following Monday's scheduled off-day, the scene will shift to Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, where the Giants will try to accomplish the near-impossible: winning three consecutive games. San Francisco achieved that feat four times during the regular season, but history has demonstrated that it's much more difficult to execute in October's rarefied atmosphere. Only four of the 42 teams that trailed 2-0 in a Division Series surged back to advance to the League Championship Series. Each of these comebacks occurred in the American League: Seattle over New York, 1995; Boston over Cleveland, 1999; New York over Oakland, 2001; and Boston over Oakland, 2003. All 21 NL teams that grabbed a 2-0 advantage held it. So in a way, the Giants are attempting to record a first. "We're not done yet," Bumgarner insisted. "This has happened before to teams and they've come back and won. It hasn't happened very often, but it has been done before. We're going to keep fighting to the end." Giants catcher Buster Posey summarized the approach the Giants must take in basic terms: "Go out and give everything you've got," he said. San Francisco's efforts fell short against the Reds, whose 13-hit sequence complemented Bronson Arroyo's seven-inning one-hitter. Arroyo no-hit San Francisco for 4 2/3 innings until Brandon Belt singled. "Tough day for the hitters," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, praising Arroyo. "He mixed his pitches up, changed speeds and hit spots." The Reds sounded intent on maintaining pressure on the Giants.
"We don't want to take anything for granted. It's a good ballclub over there, too," Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "They won 94 games. They won the West. They're capable of winning three in a row, too."From the Giants' perspective, the evening's highlight was the two-inning stint pitched by Tim Lincecum, who was essentially demoted to the bullpen with Bochy's announcement that Ryan Vogelsong will start Tuesday's Game 3. The two-time Cy Young Award winner and 2010 postseason hero prompted ringing cheers from the AT&T Park patrons who still revere him. Lincecum rewarded his fans with two shutout innings.
"His stuff was electric," Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro said. 'His curveball was unbelievable, his changeup, his fastball -- it was nice to see that."But though Lincecum's appearance galvanized the crowd, it did nothing for the Giants, who seemed impervious to the winning spirit that was once theirs. Lincecum couldn't revive it. Nor could 2010 World Series hero Edgar Renteria, who threw the ceremonial first pitch, or box-seat patron Joe Montana, the former 49ers quarterback who symbolizes athletic hope and triumph in these parts. Bumgarner looked sharp during a perfect first inning, striking out two and inducing a foul popup. Then he regressed to the form he displayed in September, when he posted a 5.47 ERA in five starts. Ludwick opened the scoring with a second-inning leadoff homer. That was just a warmup act for the fourth inning, when the Reds added three runs and hastened Bumgarner's departure. Joey Votto and Ludwick opened the inning with singles. One out later, Scott Rolen singled home Votto, who beat Hunter Pence's one-hop throw with a headfirst slide. Rolen advanced to second base on the play, setting up Ryan Hanigan's two-run single. Cincinnati turned the game into a rout with a five-run eighth. Jay Bruce lashed a two-run double off Jose Mijares, who responded by angrily hurling his glove and cap at inanimate objects in the dugout upon being removed from the game. Guillermo Mota was similarly ineffective, surrendering three run-scoring hits: Hanigan's single, Drew Stubbs' triple and Brandon Phillips' double.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.