Giants' offense awakens in must-win game

Giants' offense awakens in must-win game

Giants' offense awakens in must-win game
CINCINNATI -- On those rare occasions when the Reds did something right Wednesday, the sold-out crowd at Great American Ball Park fervently waved commemorative white towels in near-perfect unison.

The Reds pitchers, on the other hand, might have opted to fly a white flag instead, a surrender to what was a wholly improbable and unexpected offensive outburst by the Giants in their emphatic 8-3 victory in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

Reds vs. Giants

Who saw this coming? For starters, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt did late Tuesday, after Game 4, when he offered an off-the-wall declaration to anyone who would listen that the offense was "ready to wake up."

It did more than that, as the Giants fought off elimination for the second time in as many days with eight runs on 11 hits -- eight, yes, eight of those hits going for extra bases -- in a runaway victory that sets up a Game 5 showdown Thursday at 10 a.m. PT on TBS.

"There's days when everything just goes right," said Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, trying his best to explain how the offense took flight Wednesday after three quiet games.

After fighting off elimination with a 2-1 victory in 10 innings Tuesday, the Giants were left to mull over a handful of unsightly numbers -- a collective .126 batting average after three games, four runs and three extra-base hits to show for 27 innings.

On Wednesday, though, that all changed -- and it changed quickly, as leadoff hitter Angel Pagan sent a Mike Leake fastball into the right-field seats for a 1-0 lead, only the second lead the Giants have held in the series. He's the first Giants player to hit a home run to begin a postseason game.

"He woke up the offense," said Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who hit one of three home runs.

The Giants got home runs from Pagan, a two-run home run by Gregor Blanco and another two-run shot, this time from Sandoval, who broke the game open in the seventh inning. He destroyed a pitch from Reds reliever Jose Arredondo, a ball that on a warm summer day might have found the Ohio River, which sits beyond the right-field seats.

"Lucky," Sandoval said, smiling.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy wasn't buying that.

"It really was great to see our offense pick it up. [The Reds] have done a great job of shutting us down," Bochy said. "That's how, really, we've been playing from August until this point. Today we threw out some quality at-bats. The long ball, which we're not known for, was big for us tonight."

On two occasions, the Giants answered Reds runs with runs of their own. The Reds scored in the bottom of the first inning and the Giants countered with two runs in the second inning. Then in the sixth inning, the Reds scored a run to make it 5-3. The Giants then pushed the lead to 8-3 with three runs in the top of the seventh inning.

"It's always important when they score you answer back," Bochy said. "The club did a great job of doing that tonight."

It wasn't just the usual suspects doing the hitting, either.

Buster Posey, the Giants candidate for NL MVP, went hitless in four at-bats. While Sandoval and Pagan combined for five hits, shortstop Joaquin Arias, who entered the game as part of a double-switch, had two doubles and scored twice. Not a bad haul for the Fresno Grizzlies' Opening Day shortstop. And then there was Blanco, known more for his speed and defense, slugging a home run.

The Giants had three hits with runners in scoring position -- the only three they've had in this entire series.

And so now, thanks in part to this offensive revival -- small sample size or not -- the Giants are the ones who have the momentum going into the decisive Game 5 with their ace, 16-game winner Matt Cain, all set to pitch on regular rest.

Pitcher Barry Zito, who started Game 4 but was gone after 2 2/3 innings, sees no reason why this roll can't continue Thursday.

"Yesterday [Game 3] was incredible," Zito said. "Today, they came out hacking. Pagan got the home run and guys kept hitting down the line. It was only a matter of time and today they busted out."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.