The San Francisco Giants own the best record in baseball (37-21), but appeared undeniably vulnerable on Tuesday night at Great American Ballpark. The slow-starting Cincinnati Reds pounded former Giants’ staff ace Tim Lincecum for eight runs in 4.1 innings of work. The Reds’ continued regular season dominance over the Giants is bittersweet, considering San Francisco’s ridiculous NLDS triumph on Cincinnati turf in 2012. Tonight, slugging catcher Devin Mesoraco showcased a brand of power that Lincecum no longer has.
The Reds’ 25-year-old backstop bombed a two-run home run in the first inning to put Cincinnati in comfortable distance of the formerly run-challenged Giants, who entered this game as the eighth highest scoring team in all of baseball. For Lincecum, tonight’s outing was a big step in the wrong direction. He had taken strides toward re-establishing himself as a concrete difference-maker in San Francisco’s rotation before getting roughed up.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner continues to struggle with his command, allowing more than 1.5 runners to reach base per inning in 12 starts this season. Before an ugly outing against the run-starving Reds, “The Freak” had surrendered just six total runs in his previous 24.2 innings pitched. Cincinnati made sure that Lincecum wouldn’t continue to trek in the right direction for a team that somehow wins despite critical injuries to several key players, namely Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro.
Entering tonight’s game, Lincecum wore a nasty 6.35 ERA on his sleeve in 11.1 innings pitched over the course of two starts at Great American Ballpark. That figure ballooned throughout the night. It didn’t matter that slugging right-fielder Hunter Pence launched a solo shot to give San Francisco an early lead. They never had a chance with Lincecum on the bump.
No, Homer Bailey wasn’t at his best. Bailey lowered his ERA to 4.99 after a decent six-inning performance, but his showing was nowhere close to what he was able to do against a different brand of Giants last July, when he tossed the second no-hitter of his career. Bailey surrendered three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts. It was an overall encouraging outing for Bailey and the Reds, who have greatly struggled to mount consistency so far this season.
The Giants are going to keep on humming in spite of tonight’s game-long gaffe, and the Reds better be prepared. Cincinnati cannot rely on backup catcher, and foul top magnet, Hector Sanchez to hurl three airmails into centerfield to propel run-scoring rallies. Buster Posey, the 2012 MVP, will likely be back behind the dish on Wednesday, despite nagging back pain. The Giants committed a season-high four errors in defeat, exhibiting an alarming vulnerability that hadn’t breached the box scores through the first third of the season.
The Reds earned a crucial win over the team with the best record in the game on Tuesday, but have plenty of work to do if they expect to win this series. San Francisco is out for blood, make no mistake about that.