By HAL McCOY
Tyler Mahle, weakened by a chest infection, probably shouldn’t have pitched Tuesday night in AT&T Park, but the San Francisco Giants were mighty pleased to see him.
The Cincinnati Reds gave their young starter a three-run lead in the fourth inning, but the Giants went hit-crazy against Mahle in the bottom of the fourth en route to a 5-3 victory.
The Giants assaulted Mahle for four straight hits to open the inning that led to four runs and Mahle didn’t make it out of the inning.
It began pleasantly enough for the Reds on a cool night in the City by the Bay against San Francisco left hander Ty Blach.
They scored two in the third with two outs and nobody on. Second baseman Kelby Tomlinson booted Jesse Winker’s ground ball that would have been the third out. Eugenio Suarez then drove a home run into the left field seats, his seventh home run and 30th RBI in only 27 games. That gave Mahle two runs to work with.
The Reds manufactured a third run in the fourth on catcher Tony Cruz’s single, Mahle’s perfect sacrifice bunt and Billy Hamilton’s single. That made it 3-0 and the Reds were finished offensively for the night.
Mahle pitched a 1-2-3 third, but Brandon Belt opened the fourth with a splashdown home run that landed in McCovey Cove beyond the right field wall. Belt is 4 for 8 with two home runs in the series.
That merely opened the gates to a deluge.
Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford and Austin Jackson all singled to load the bases. After Mahle struck out Kelby Tomlinson, Giants manager Bruce Bochy made a big decision.
Knowing the game might be on the line, he pulled pitcher Ty Blach for pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda. He punched a two-run single to left field and Mahle was finished. Another run scored when third baseman Eugenio Suarez bobbled what could have been an inning-ending double play on Andrew McCutchen. The Reds converted the force at second but McCutchen beat the throw at first as the fourth run of the inning scored.
Mahle pitched 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs and seven hits. Because he went deep into a lot of counts against the patient Giants, his pitch count hit 86 by the time he left.
It stayed 4-3 until the Giants added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth against Reds relief pitcher David Hernandez. Brandon Crawford singled and is 6 for 8 with three doubles in the series.
Hernandez made a serious mistake. He balked Crawford to second from where he could score on Kelby Tomlinson’s single to center to make it 5-3.
The Reds had opportunities to score after they were down 4-3, but every effort came up short.
Pinch-hitter Alex Blandino doubled with one out in the seventh, but Billy Hamilton flied to shallow center and Jose Peraza struck out.
Suarez jammed his ankle sliding into second base after a walk in the first inning and talked his way into staying into the game. He then homered in the third and he doubled with one out in the eighth. But relief pitcher Tony Watson struck out both Scooter Gennett and Adam Duvall.
Neither Tucker Barnhart (day off) nor Joey Votto (sore back) started the game but both pinch-hit in the ninth inning. Barnhart grounded out to first and San Francisco closer Hunter Strickland struck out Votto on a 97 miles an hour fastball to end the game.
The Reds scored three runs on five hits and walk in four innings against Blach, but five San Francisco relief pitchers held the Reds to no runs and two hits over the final five innings.
So after sweeping four games in Los Angeles to construct a six-game winning streak, the Reds lost the first two in San Francisco with one more chance. Matt Harvey faces the Giants Wednesday afternoon. And Votto is expected to be back in the lineup.