By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI – It is difficult to fathom that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — judging by the way they’ve played the last two days and their below ground standings in the National League West.
Oh, how the mighty do fall.
Or maybe, just maybe, the Cincinnati Reds have something to do with it and have something special going on.
They certainly did the last two days. After cold-cocking the Giants Friday night, 13-3, the Reds followed it up Saturday with another punch to the solar plexus, 14-2.
The Reds have won four straight and six of their last seven while the Giants have lost five of their last seven and own an 11-and-20 record, making them the bottom feeders of the NL West. And the Reds are tied for first place with the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.
ONCE AGAIN BILLY HAMILTON’S SPEEDY feet left prints all over this game, just as they did Friday when he was on base five straight times with three hits, scored four runs, drove in two and stole two bases.
He continued his destruction Saturday, stretching it to eight straight plate appearances to get on base. In the first three innings, while the Reds were constructing a 10-2 lead, he tripled in the first, doubled in the second and singled in the first. He scored twice, drove in two and stole his 19th base. Finally, in his ninth plate appearance of the series, he popped out to shortstop on a full count in the fifth inning.
As always, though, his best play may have been on defense. The Giants had the bases loaded with no outs in the second inning when Eduardo Nunez smashed one to deep center. Hamilton fled to the wall to catch it. A run scored after the catch, but three might have scored if Hamilton doesn’t make the catch.
“Wasn’t it another big day for Billy? No doubt about it,” said manager Bryan Price. “He is wreaking havoc, swinging a hot bat, making things happen on the bases. And that play in center field? Think about that. He goes up against the wall, collides with the wall, and makes a big catch when things are starting to unravel a little bit. It was a big out because that could have been a big inning.”
AFTER SCORING RUNS IN EACH of the first six innings Friday, the Reds scored runs in each of the first five innings Saturday, pushing six across in the third inning.
The Reds didn’t hit any home runs while scoring 12 runs Friday, but they hit three Saturday. Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez and Patrick Kivlehan all homered while Kivlehan, making a cameo appearance in right field, collected four hits.
After punching 16 hits Friday, the Reds collected 18 Saturday — four by Kivlehan, three by Hamilton, plus two each by Zack Cozart, Joey Votto, Duvall and Suarez.
Kivlehan’s four hits were a saving grace for him. With two on and no outs in the second inning, he dropped a routine fly ball in right field that filled the bases and two runs eventually scored.
But the way he came back was a game highlight for Price.
“WHAT KIVLEHAN DID, COMING in and getting four hits, that’s a boost,” said Price. “The regulars don’t want to take days off but if they are going to give up a game for somebody else to get in there it sure is nice when that player comes in and does a great job.
“He ends up dropping the ball, then he runs into the wall chasing a ball and then he has to run in on a ball and right his body to make a throw home, all in one inning,” said Price. “Then he followed up with a base hit, four hits and a home run. I’m just happy for him because as a bench player you live for those opportunities to get a start and when you do you want to do well and he did it.”
KIVLEHAN SAID A MEMBER OF the Giants lifted his spirits after his error. When he singled in the bottom of the second and reached second base, San Francico shortstop Eduardo Nunez sauntered over and said, “Forget about it. Don’t worry about it. It happens to everybody.”
Said Kivlehan, “That was the worst way to start a game, making that error. But I was able to rebound and get that first hit to really relax. That took the anxiety and the stress away. I was able to play and finish the game.”
THE RECIPIENT OF THE RUN CASCADE this night was lefthanded rookie Amir Garrett. He pitched six innings and gave up two runs and five hits.
Garrett walked the first two Giants in the second and it cost him two runs. Both scored, one on a sacrifice fly and the second on a double by Gorkys Hernandez.
He gave up three singles in the fourth inning but escaped when Hernandez hit into an inning-ending double play and Garrett was on his way to his third victory in five decisions this season.
AND NOW THE GIANTS ARE calling upon former Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto (4-1, 4.86) to put a tourniquet around the bleeding Sunday afternoon against Scott Feldman.
“He loves pitching and the think I enjoyed so much about Johnny is that he loved his bullpen work,” said Price. “He didn’t go to the bullpen and just labor through a non-specific routine. He always challenged himself in the bullpen.
“And then in games he never, ever gave in to a hitter. He never felt he was in a bad position,” said Price. “There are not a lot of guys you can say that. Sometimes you’ll have pitchers that know that the easier guy to get out maybe is on deck. They’ll pitch around a guy. Well, Johnny just got after every hitter he ever faced.
“He just loves the competition and is never looking over his shoulder to the bullpen for help, hoping somebody will come in and throw a life-line to him,” Price added.
The Giants hope Cueto not only takes a life-line to the mound Sunday, but puts his drowning team in a very large life boat.
Long after Saturday’s game, Cueto was standing by an elevator waiting to leave the park when a San Francisco Writer asked him, “What? A two-hit shutout tomorrow?”
Said Cueto, “Don’t know. We’ll see. They hot.”