Instead, Ryan Vogelsong diffused the problem rather quickly. From there, the Giants scratched and clawed and hung on just long enough for the their scuffling offense to produce a victory.
"It's a game that you look back and you're thankful your pitching came through," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy after his club's 2-1 triumph in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. "They kept them at bay to give us a chance."
The outlook appeared grim for San Francisco just moments into Tuesday's elimination game. Cincinnati's first hitter, second baseman Brandon Phillips, reached on a single off Vogelsong. Phillips stole second on a pitch that caromed off the backstop and right back into the grasp of catcher Buster Posey.
A raucous crowd of 44,501 -- the second largest in Great American Ball Park history -- drowned out the instruction shouted by Vogelsong, who attempted to direct Posey's attention to third base. Nonetheless, Posey eyed Phillips, who displayed no hesitation while rounding second, and fired a perfect throw to nab the runner at the hot corner.
That play, Bochy said, saved the Giants.
"You never know when you're going to have a multitude of opportunities," said Reds first baseman Joey Votto. "You try to take advantage of it and do the best you can. In hindsight, I suppose, it would have been nice to have scored a few more runs. We didn't know how close the game would end up. Kudos to Ryan Vogelsong."
The baserunning blunder proved costly for the Reds, who followed with a walk and a pair of singles later in the first. Cincinnati crossed the plate once in that inning, but never again in the ensuing nine frames.
Reds skipper Dusty Baker shied away from offering disappointment in Phillips' aggression on the basepaths.
"Brandon is a heads-up baseball player," Baker said. "He thought he had the chance to make the play, and the ball came right back to Buster Posey. It doesn't weigh on my mind. We had chances sometime later in the game, too. It appears that's the only chance when you look back upon it, but no, it doesn't weigh heavily on our minds. I urged our guys to advance bases and to hustle."
Vogelsong settled in quickly after the tenuous showing in the first inning. Posey spoke highly of his ability to pitch off his fastball and demonstrate command on both sides of the plate. Vogelsong didn't allow another hit during his five-inning stint, which made Bochy's decision to pull him after 95 pitches all the more difficult. Aubrey Huff pinch-hit for Vogelsong to commence the sixth inning.
The right-hander left the mound in good hands, though. A slew of four Giants relievers combined for five scoreless frames, limiting the Reds to just one hit and a walk.
"It's never easy to take out a pitcher who was getting locked in," Bochy said. "He did his job and part of it is the faith I have in the bullpen, and they came through for us."
Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez silenced the Reds' bats for three innings before Sergio Romo retired all six batters he faced to earn the win. Romo pitched two innings for just the second time all season. If Bochy beckons on Wednesday, he'll do it again.
"It's in my head, 'I've got to get it done, play for another day,'" Romo said. "And it went well for us. We were fortunate."
Thanks to the collective pitching effort, San Francisco lives to see another brisk October day.
"When you're in a game like this, that's what you hope for," Bochy said. "It's obvious, this game -- it was do or die for us."