SAN FRANCISCO -- The last time the Reds saw Madison Bumgarner, on June 28 at AT&T Park, they managed one Ryan Hanigan single over nine long innings. On Sunday in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, both sides had very different experiences. "I don't think there's really any explanation for it," said Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs. "But this is who we really are."
Ryan Ludwick started the scoring with a second-inning home run, Hanigan drove in three runs and the Reds thumped the Giants, 9-0, to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. It was the Reds' best night at the plate since they scored nine runs in Houston on Aug. 31, and their best output in a postseason game since a 10-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1995 NLDS. It was an offensive breakthrough for a club that badly needed one. The Reds finished the season third in the NL with 172 home runs, but they were in the bottom half of the league in scoring -- ninth, with 669 runs -- and they entered the postseason as one of the coldest teams in baseball.
Cincinnati was last in the Majors with 83 runs after Sept. 1 -- less than half of the Yankees' output in that same span -- last with an average of just 2.86 runs per game and ahead of only the Red Sox with a .618 OPS over the final month."We haven't hit anything really this last month," manager Dusty Baker said Friday, on the eve of the series. Were Reds hitters listening? In Game 1 on Saturday, they outhit the Giants, 9-7, and won, 5-2. In Game 2, they broke out with 13 hits and nine runs. "There are some times when you can't buy runs, and there are other times that you can score runs at will," Baker said Sunday night, with his team one win away from advancing to the NL Championship Series. "If I knew why and the secret of that, then I might really make a lot of money." The Reds finished a run shy of their postseason record. In addition to the 10 runs in the 1995 NLDS, in Game 8 -- yes, eight -- of the '19 World Series, they rolled to a 10-5 victory. "Our pitching carried us the last month of the season, and sometimes you go through periods or streaks where you're not scoring runs or you're not finding holes, not having very good at-bats," Baker said. "It just seems like once somebody starts hitting then it's contagious throughout your lineup. That's what happened." It began with Ludwick, who entered the night 1-for-16 in his career against Bumgarner. This time, Ludwick jumped on a first-pitch, 90-mph fastball and sent it over the wall in straightaway center field. Nine of Ludwick's 26 regular-season homers were on the first pitch. Now, make it 10 of 27 in 2012. "Anytime you get on the board first, it's big, whether it's the playoffs or not," he said. "I know I didn't have a lot of success [against Bumgarner]. I actually didn't play in that game earlier in the year. But a lot of those numbers were when I was in San Diego, and I just wasn't right there. ... I felt good coming into today. I had a good game plan, and I think it showed." The Reds added three runs in the fourth inning and five more in the eighth. Ludwick delivered one of four Reds singles off Bumgarner in the fourth inning. Joey Votto sparked the eighth-inning rally with the last of his three hits, and Jay Bruce delivered a two-run double to start the scoring in that inning. Brandon Phillips capped the night with a double to score Stubbs. By that time, many Giants fans were already heading for the exits. "To get the bats going was huge," Hanigan said. "There was a lull with guys after we clinched, for whatever reason, but we've been winning games on pitching and defense and it's good to see the bats come alive, top to bottom really." The Reds will be on the brink of advancing to the NLCS. "You hate to get beat like that, especially at home, and it happened," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We know where we're at right now and our backs are to the wall. We have to come out and be ready to play once we get to Cincinnati."