An uncharacteristic start from ace Matt Cain has left the San Francisco Giants in unfamiliar territory to start this postseason run.
Cain gave up home runs to Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce for the first earned runs he has ever allowed in the postseason, and the Giants find themselves trailing a playoff series for a change following a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NL division series on Saturday night.
Cain was a reliable workhorse during the Giants' run to the World Series title two years ago, allowing no earned runs in 21 1-3 innings. That was a big reason why San Francisco never trailed in a series on the way to beating Atlanta, Philadelphia and Texas for the franchise's first championship since moving West in 1958.
But Cain was unable to outduel Cincinnati's patchwork pitching staff after starter Johnny Cueto left with back spasms just eight pitches in. Sam LeCure pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings for the win, scheduled Game 3 starter Mat Latos allowed only a solo homer by Buster Posey in four innings and the Reds stellar bullpen did the rest to take a 1-0 series lead.
The loss by the Giants capped a down day in the Bay Area. The Oakland Athletics lost the opener of their AL division series 3-1 in Detroit.
Cincinnati came up with the kind of pitching Cain delivered throughout the 2010 postseason, when he allowed just one unearned run in three starts. He picked up where he left off to start, retiring the first four batters with two strikeouts.
But he ran into trouble in the third when No. 8 hitter Drew Stubbs led off with a single and scored on Phillips' one-out homer to left-center. It was the third homer Cain has allowed to Phillips and ended his postseason stretch without an earned run at 23 1-3 innings — fifth longest ever.
Bruce, who has a .462 regular season average against Cain, added to the lead for the Reds with a leadoff homer in the fourth to give the Reds a 3-0 lead.
That marked just the second time the past two seasons that Cain allowed two homers in a game at home with the other coming on June 29 against Cincinnati. Half of his six losses this season have come against the Reds.
Cain was then lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, having allowed three runs and five hits. He threw only 75 pitches and might be able to come back on short rest in Game 4.
But the Giants need to win a game to get the series that far. Madison Bumgarner will be counted on to help the Giants tie this best-of-five series Sunday before it shifts to Cincinnati for the final three games. He pitched a one-hitter against the Reds in June.
Bumgarner went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA as a 21-year-old rookie in the 2010 postseason and his 16 wins this season were the most for a Giants lefty since Kirk Rueter in 1998. But Bumgarner had a 5.89 ERA in his final seven starts.
"I think it was a mechanical issue and I think we got it ironed out," he said before the game. "If we don't, don't matter, just got to go out there and compete."
The Giants tried to rally late and put the tying run on base in the eighth before Gregor Blanco struck out and ended that threat. They then loaded the bases in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman. Pablo Sandoval popped out and the fans started chanting "M-V-P!" for batting champ Posey. A wild pitch scored one run before Chapman struck out Posey on a 100 mph fastball to end it.