Homer Bailey turned in a pitching performance worthy of a series clincher. Too bad for the Cincinnati starter that the Reds' bats and defense didn't follow suit.
Bailey flirted with his second no-hitter in his last three starts, but the San Francisco Giants got just enough good pitching of their own and capitalized on a key mistake to beat the Reds 2-1 in 10 innings Tuesday night, cutting their NL division series deficit to 2-1.
Third baseman Scott Rolen's two-out error in the 10th helped the Giants avoid a sweep.
Bailey, who threw his first career no-hitter on Sept. 28 at Pittsburgh, held San Francisco hitless until Marco Scutaro lined a clean single to right with two outs in the sixth inning.
"Fastball, location," Bailey said when asked what was working. "We executed everything."
Bailey said he had better stuff than he used to hold the Pirates hitless. Manager Dusty Baker, who missed that performance while still recovering from treatment for an irregular heartbeat, appreciated his second chance to see Bailey excel.
"Homer was lights out," Baker said. "That's the best I've seen Homer. I didn't see his no-hitter."
Catcher Ryan Hanigan wasn't surprised by Bailey's effort.
"He's had good stuff the whole month, really," Hanigan said. "He threw great, no doubt about it. He made pitches all night. He didn't miss middle, and when he fell behind, he came back."
Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glove winner, couldn't come up with Joaquin Arias' short-hop grounder, bobbled it and threw late to first. The loss extended the Reds' 17-year streak of home postseason frustration.
The Giants managed only three hits against Bailey and three Reds relievers, but got two of them in the 10th — along with a passed ball by Ryan Hanigan — to pull it out. San Francisco won despite striking out a season-high 16 times.
Cincinnati finished with four hits, just one after the first inning.
Left-hander Barry Zito will pitch Game 4 on Wednesday for the Giants, who have won the last 11 times he started. The Reds have to decide whether to try ace Johnny Cueto, forced out of the opener in San Francisco on Saturday with spasms in his back and side.
The Reds haven't won a home playoff game since 1995, the last time they reached the NL championship series. One win away from making it back there, they couldn't beat a Giants team that has barely been able to get a hit, and that nagged Reds first baseman Joey Votto.
"The bottom line is we still don't have a playoff win in this ballpark," said Votto, who also played in the Reds' 2-0 loss to Philadelphia at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park in Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS.
Bailey turned his first start at Great American Ball Park since his no-hitter into the latest dominating performance by a Reds starter. Fortunately for the Giants, Bailey's one lapse let to a run. He hit a batter, walked another and gave up a sacrifice fly by Angel Pagan in the third inning.
"I was thinking about the one run more than I was about the no-hitter," Bailey said.
The Reds' staff set a season high for strikeouts. Closer Aroldis Chapman fanned two on 100 mph fastballs during a perfect ninth inning, keeping it tied at 1.
San Francisco's one-hit wonders finally got it going against Jonathan Broxton, who gave up leadoff singles by Buster Posey — the NL batting champion — and Hunter Pence, who pulled his left calf on a wild swing before getting his hit.
With two outs, Hanigan couldn't come up with a pitch, letting the runners advance. Arias' tough-chance grounder then put Rolen in a tough spot — charging the ball for a quick short-hop swipe. He couldn't come up with it cleanly, and Arias beat the throw.
No sweep this time. Instead, a Reds team that lost a lot — closer Ryan Madson in spring training, top hitter Joey Votto for six weeks at midseason, manager Dusty Baker for the NL Central clincher, Cueto in the first inning of the first playoff game — ended up with another playoff loss at home.
Baker was back in the home dugout at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday for the first time in nearly a month while he dealt with his ailments. After a pregame ovation, he settled in his red folding chair with a toothpick on his lips.
The 63-year-old manager watched his pitching staff do well once again, but fail to get that breakthrough win.
Cincinnati's last playoff win came when it beat the Dodgers 10-1 at Riverfront Stadium for a three-game division sweep of the 1995 NLDS. They then got swept by Atlanta.
The Reds' next brush with the postseason came in 1999, when they lost a one-game playoff for the wild card to Al Leiter and the Mets. They finally made in 2010 with a young team that got no-hit by Roy Halladay and swept by the Phillies in the opening round.
The second-largest crowd in Great American history was still getting the hang of playoff rooting. A video board message instructed the 44,501 fans not to wave white rally towels while the Reds were in the field — could be distracting.
Didn't take long to get those towels twirling. Brandon Phillips led off with a single, but was thrown out at third when he tried to advance on a ball that got away from Posey. It was costly — the Reds went on to score on a walk and a pair of singles, including Jay Bruce's RBI hit to right.
The Reds got only one more hit the rest of the way.
NOTES: The game started 3 minutes late because a sign-waving fan ran onto the field. He was tackled by police in center field. ... Giants avoided their third playoff sweep in franchise history. ... The Giants haven't lost three in a row since they dropped five straight from July 25-30. ... Tom Browning, who pitched the Reds' previous no-hitter — a perfect game against the Dodgers in 1988 — threw the ceremonial pitch. ... Bailey fanned six in a row, matching the Reds' postseason record. ... The only larger crowd at GABP was for the 2010 playoff game against Philadelphia.