video thumbnail

SF@CIN Gm5: Latos on his mindset heading into Game 5

CINCINNATI -- The must-win mindset is now a shared one for these Reds and Giants.

The Giants lugged it all the way from City By the Bay to the Queen City, and it's suited them surprisingly well this week. The Reds, reluctantly, now find themselves trying it on for size, and they don't have much time to get comfortable with their newly created condition.

Game 5 looms at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday on TBS, with Mat Latos and Matt Cain on the mound and somebody's season coming to an end at Great American Ball Park.

"They've had their backs against the wall for two games now," Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick said of the Giants. "Now it's our turn. ... It's all or nothing."

Whatever happens from here, the result is rare.

In coming back from an 0-2 deficit to force a decisive Game 5, the Giants have already done something only six prior teams have done in the 18-season history of the Division Series. Four of those six teams -- the 1995 Mariners, 1999 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees and 2003 Red Sox -- went the extra mile and won it outright to advance to the League Championship Series.

The Reds can't let that happen, unless they want to live in ignominy. Because the thing you might have noticed about those four teams is that none of them played in the NL. In Division Series history, NL teams that have gone up 2-0 are a perfect 21-for-21 in claiming that series.

And the other thing about those four teams is that none of them went on that three-game thrill ride on the road. If you thought a hush fell over Great American Ball Park in Games 3 and 4, just think how deafening the sound of silence would be if the Giants finish this thing off.

The Reds, naturally, would rather hear some joyful noise in the 'Nati, and there's only one way to make it happen.

"The main thing is just come out fighting," Dusty Baker said. "That what it's about. Tomorrow is the final fight."

Ask the Giants, and they'll tell you their fight has been facilitated by the spirited speeches delivered by Hunter Pence before Games 3 and 4. He gathers the group, arm-in-arm, and belts out a battle cry, the theme of which, basically, is one of friendship and survival -- extending their time together for one more day and one more day and one more day after that.

"[Pence] inspired us to go out there and be positive and bring the best we can bring," Angel Pagan said. "That's what we have shown. We have shown that there is no tomorrow. This is today, and thanks to the win today there will be a tomorrow."

There will be a Game 5 for several other, more tangible reasons.

For one, there will be a Game 5 because the Reds have stopped delivering in the clutch. They stranded 10 runners in Game 4, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The main offender was Joey Votto, who twice ended innings with two on and whose continuing lack of power has sapped the strength of the lineup.

There will be a Game 5 because Bruce Bochy outmaneuvered Baker in Game 4. While Bochy aggressively worked the switches, maneuvering the early inning matchups in his favor by placing calls to the 'pen, Baker was more lenient with Mike Leake, and it came back to bite him when Leake ran out of gas in the fifth and the Reds didn't have a reliever ready.

And there will be a Game 5 because the Giants' bats awoke. They had 12 hits in the series' first three games, and they pounded out 11 in Game 4.

What makes Game 5 so intriguing is that both clubs are bringing their best hand to the table. Cain is the unquestioned ace of the Giants, the man who assured his seat at the Perfect Game Club earlier this year and posted a 2.79 ERA over 219 1/3 innings pitched this season. He made two costly mistakes in Game 1 -- homers allowed to Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce--- but his short start left him rested and ready for this opportunity.

The Reds counter with Latos, who was arguably their best pitcher in the second half (7-2, 2.84 ERA) and who has been used but briefly in this series. Latos came on in relief after Johnny Cueto's Game 1 start was cut short by an oblique issue that wound up costing him a spot on the postseason roster for the LCS round. Latos tossed four effective innings in that win.

If this comes down to a bullpen battle, all hands are on deck. Bochy didn't use Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla or Sergio Romo in Game 4, and the Baker didn't turn to Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton or Aroldis Chapman. So the most prominent relief options will all be available.

"We've got our No. 1 guy on the mound, we've got everybody rested up or pretty rested, so we're looking pretty good," Giants reliever George Kontos said. "We just have to play with the same fire we've played with the last couple days."

The Giants were on fire, and now the Reds have to avoid the dubious distinction of seeing a commanding series lead go up in flames.

The Reds, it should be noted, didn't lose three games in a row at home all season. But this is not the season; this is the postseason. And no matter Game 5's outcome, the Giants have succeeded in making it interesting.

MLB.com Comments