SAN FRANCISCO -- Offensively challenged for much of their last road trip, the Giants got creative with their scoring Tuesday night. Starting pitcher Matt Cain hit a three-run home run. Catcher Buster Posey straight-stole third base and tagged up on a sacrifice fly. Another run scored when a bases-loaded double play was overturned on replay review.
"However we can get runs, we’ll take it," said shortstop Brandon Crawford.
And the Giants needed almost all of them to hold on for a 9-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds, who hit four more home runs Tuesday night at AT&T Park, two against Cain. Giants pitchers have now allowed 23 homers in 10 games since the All-Star Break, but they won for just the second time in that stretch to keep their dwindling lead in the N.L. West at 2 ½ games.
"They’re all big now, what we’re going through," manager Bruce Bochy said of the win. "We’ve been in a tough stretch here, and the bats picked us up tonight."
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None more so than Cain, who was 1-for-18 on the season when he came up with runners on first and third and one out in the second and the Giants leading 1-0. Cain tried to bunt Cody Reed’s second pitch and fouled it off. He hit the next pitch into the left-field seats.
"That was huge," Bochy said. "He’s got big power when he gets a hold of it."
It had been four years since Cain got a hold of one that well. His last homer had come on July 21, 2012 against Cole Hamels -- a game in which Hamels also homered off Cain.
Tuesday’s was Cain’s seventh career home run. One of the Giants’ better hitting pitchers at one time, Cain since the start of 2013 was batting .088 (10-for-113) with one extra-base hit before his first at-bat Tuesday.
"It’s not that easy to hit," Cain said. "You’re just hoping you can put a decent swing on a pitch over the plate and run into one."
It hasn’t been easy for Cain on the mound, either, as he earned just his second win of the season in 13 starts. Cain lasted just 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and two more home runs -- a solo shot by Joey Votto in the fourth and two-run homer by Adam Duvall in the sixth that knocked him out of the game. But he departed with a 6-4 lead, a much different scenario than his last start in Boston, when he left in the third inning trailing 5-0.
"I just did a better job of keeping the ball off the middle of the plate," Cain said. "I had a couple of them there towards the end that kind of ran over the plate. But for the most part I think I did a better job of limiting the mistakes."
Before the game Bochy had shot down a question about whether Cain was under scrutiny given his last outing in Boston and 5.88 ERA, which actually rose to 5.95 on Tuesday. Cain said he had harbored no such thoughts.
"I knew it wasn’t that bad," he said. "Those guys (Boston) are swinging the bats hot over there and same thing with these guys."
The Reds managed just one hit off Cain in the first three innings but did more damage the second and third time through the order. Cain departed having thrown just 78 pitches.
"His stamina’s going to get better," Bochy said. "He missed some time going on the DL. I will say these guys, they stretch out their at-bats. But overall his pitch count I thought was pretty good. I’m not concerned. I think it’s only going to get better."
Bochy said he thought Cain might have gotten "a little tired" in a nine-pitch at-bat with Duvall that ended in the two-run homer. Cain, though, said he felt "fine stamina-wise" and painted Tuesday’s outing as a positive step, as did Posey.
"I thought he threw the ball really well," Posey said. "I liked how he threw the ball in to righties. I think that’s as good as I’ve seen him throw the ball in to righties in a while."
Posey manufactured a run for Cain in the bottom of the fifth when he singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third off Reed and scored on Grant Green’s sacrifice fly. It was Posey’s sixth stolen base in six attempts. Only one N.L. player has more steals with a 100 percent success rate -- Arizona’s Chris Owings, who’s 9-for-9.
"Just felt like I had a chance," Posey said. "When I saw where the pitch was, there was a quick panic, ’cause it was basically like a perfect pitch-out."
"Speed kills," Bochy said.
The Giants still had work to do after Cain left, though. George Kontos finished the sixth inning and Derek Law and Javier Lopez combined for a scoreless seventh, with Lopez getting Votto to ground out with two on to end the inning. The Giants added three runs in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run triple from Crawford, who later scored on Conor Gillaspie’s pinch-hit single.
It was a good night for the middle of the Giants’ order, which was much maligned on the 1-7 road trip. Posey was 2-for-4, Crawford had three hits and Brandon Belt reached base five times on a single, three walks and an error.
The late rally was key as Sergio Romo allowed back-to-back homers to open the eighth to Jay Bruce and Duvall -- the former Giants farmhand now tied for third in the N.L. with 25 home runs. Adding to Bochy’s stress level, left fielder Angel Pagan was ejected in the bottom of the eighth by home plate umpire Joe West for arguing a called third strike.
Bochy had already used both his backup outfielders in pinch-hit situations and was forced in the ninth to move Belt to left, Posey to first base and insert Trevor Brown at catcher.
"In our situation, it’s the last thing we needed," Bochy said. "Angel, he’s a competitor, and he’s fiery. And you know Joe, Joe’s got zero tolerance. He had shown that before and thought he was showing him up waving the bat there. It put us in a tough situation."
The Reds brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth against Santiago Casilla. But after Votto hit a sacrifice fly to center, Casilla struck Bruce out swinging for his 22nd save.
"That’s us," Bochy said. "We don’t do anything easy."