SAN FRANCISCO — The Cincinnati Reds rode a patchwork pitching staff to their first postseason win in 17 years — after losing their ace, no less.
Sam LeCure, Mat Latos and three other pitchers shut down San Francisco after Johnny Cueto went out in the first inning with a back injury, and the Cincinnati Reds were powered by home runs from Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to beat the Giants 5-2 in Game 1 of the NL division series Saturday night.
Phillips hit a two-run homer in the third, and Bruce added a solo drive leading off the fourth as the Reds overcame the departure of their 19-game winner after just eight pitches.
Aroldis Chapman gave up a run in the ninth on a wild pitch but struck out Buster Posey with a 100 mph fastball to end it with runners on second and third.
San Francisco's Matt Cain allowed his first career postseason earned runs after going untouched during the Giants' improbable World Series season of 2010.
That same year, Cincinnati was swept out of the first round by the Phillies, getting no-hit by Roy Halladay. This time, the Reds clobbered Cain and played on with poise when Cueto got hurt. Phillips, who made the final out of Halladay's no-no, added an RBI single in the ninth for his third hit and the Reds scored another on a passed ball.
"I was just trying to make things happen for the team," Phillips said. "We really believe in our team. Johnny is the type of person that we really need."
Reds skipper Dusty Baker earned an emotional win in his return to AT&T Park for the playoffs 10 years after managing the Giants within six outs of a World Series title before losing to the wild-card Angels. He's also back on the top step of the dugout after rejoining the team this week following an 11-game absence while recovering from a mini-stroke and irregular heartbeat.
Game 2 is tonight, with right-hander Bronson Arroyo (12-10) taking the ball for the Reds against San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner (16-11).
LeCure did his part to calm the team.
The right-hander earned the win with 12/3 innings before Baker turned to 14-game winner Mat Latos, who was seemingly unfazed at being forced into early duty on three days' rest. He allowed a home run to Posey during his four innings, but San Francisco managed little else against one of baseball's best bullpens.
"We were just fortunate to win that game, like the way we did tonight, and you got to give big props to Latos," Baker said. "Here is a guy sitting back, relaxed, thinking he was going to pitch next week at home and now all of the sudden, boom, this is his first playoff game. It was a great feat by him."
Latos — a longtime Giants nemesis during his Padres days — threw a 20-pitch bullpen session before the game. When pitching coach Bryan Price checked with Latos, he made it clear he could go, then went up to the clubhouse to grab his spikes. He came in to boos from all directions.
"I felt real comfortable. It's a team I've pitched well against and I've pitched against a lot," Latos said. "I'm glad I got the loudest boo. It's been weak for the last couple years."
The Reds set a club record this year as all five starters made it through the season without getting injured — and they used their sixth starter for a doubleheader.
Other Cincinnati clubs might not have had it in them to withstand losing a starter like Cueto. The Reds have had a tough go come playoff time.
But Baker has long been confident in the "fight" of this bunch, which already dealt with losing Ryan Madson and two other relievers before the season started.
The 63-year-old Baker was greeted by a rousing ovation during pregame introductions from an orange-towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,492.