Winner take all: Giants, Reds play critical Game 5

The San Francisco Giants try to become the first team to rally from an 0-2 deficit and win a National League Division Series on Wednesday when they play a decisive Game 5 against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

There have been four American League teams to overcome a similar hole and win the best-of-five set, but none of those teams had to win all three games on the road, which is exactly what the Giants would be doing after losing the first two games of this set in San Francisco.

And if the deck isn't stacked against the Giants enough, the Reds haven't lost three in a row in Cincinnati all season.

San Francisco staved off elimination on Wednesday behind a big relief effort from Tim Lincecum and an offensive power surge in an 8-3 win.

"I'm proud of how the guys have fought," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "They have done a great job of bouncing back and getting to tomorrow's game, which the only way that happens is win(ning) the first two. These guys have found a way to do that."

After mustering a mere four runs and batting .126 over the first three games, San Francisco broke out behind homers from Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval in following up Tuesday's season-saving 2-1, 10-inning win. Sandoval finished 3-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Giants' 11-hit outburst, with Pagan going 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored.

Lincecum (1-0) provided a lift as well, limiting the Reds to one run on two hits while striking out six without a walk over 4 1/3 excellent innings.

"We knew Timmy would play a critical role in the series like he did tonight," said Bochy. "It's great to have. I love a man like this who has the talent he does, and part of it was Timmy buying into what we were doing and he said, 'I just want to do anything I can to help the ballclub win'."

Starter Barry Zito lasted just 2 2/3 frames for San Francisco, with the veteran lefty permitting two runs and four hits while issuing four walks.

Subbing for injured ace Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake (0-1) was tagged for five runs on six hits before being removed after 4 1/3 innings for the Reds.

Ryan Ludwick had a solo homer and Zack Cozart went 2-for-5 for a Cincinnati squad that's attempting to record its first playoff triumph at home since besting the Los Angeles Dodgers at then-Riverfront Stadium in Game 3 of the 1995 NLDS, the franchise's last victorious postseason series as well.

"We've got one game to turn it around," said Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. "It's win or go home, obviously."

San Francisco will have its ace on the hill, as Matt Cain gets the ball trying to bounce back after losing Game 1 of this series. Cain gave up three runs and five hits in five innings last Saturday.

He was 16-5 during the season with a 2.79 ERA, but after the Game 1 loss, is 0-3 with a 5.50 ERA against the Reds this year.

"I made more mistakes than even showed up," Cain said. "I think I may have been overanxious, going out there, with the first game being at home.

"I will try to think back to other starts and be more calm and relaxed and worried about making good pitches instead of just going out there and maybe firing up there."

Getting the call for the Reds will be righty Mat Latos, who pitched in Game 1 after coming in for the injured Johnny Cueto. Latos surrendered just a run and four hits over four innings of that one. He was 14-4 this season with a 3.48 ERA.

"It's another game," said Latos, who has pitched to a 2.19 ERA in 11 regular season starts against the Giants. "It's a team that I'm comfortable with, a team that I've faced before."

He hasn't recorded a loss in eight outings and has given up one run or less in his past four appearances, but apparently he has been dealing with some sort of illness this week,

"He's OK. Everybody said he was sick, but it's a matter of him having allergies, just like I have and a lot of people in the Ohio Valley have here," manager Dusty Baker said. "Mat is Mat, you know what I mean? He's OK."

Should they win, the Giants would join the Seattle Mariners (1995), the Boston Red Sox (1999, 2003) and the New York Yankees (2001) to rally from such a deficit.

The 2010 Tampa Bay Rays and 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks both won the next two games of their division series after losing the first two games, only to lose Game 5.

History is not on the side of the Reds tonight, as there have been 30 decisive Game 5s and home teams have gone 15-15 in those contests. Also, road teams are 10-7 in Division Series Game 5s (both leagues combined) since baseball went to the eight-team playoff format in 1995.

National League road teams have won four of the last five decisive Game 5s, including last year's St. Louis Cardinals, who, of course, went on to win a World Series.

Of the last 11 opening-round series to go to a Game 5, the home team has won only two of those contests

Cincinnati won four of its seven regular season matchups with the Giants this past season.