- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Hmmm. Maybe it won't matter whether Johnny Cueto can pitch again this series after all.
One night after the Cincinnati Reds' ace lasted just eight pitches due to an injury and left with all sorts of questions regarding his health and his availability, Bronson Arroyo went a long way toward making those concerns a moot issue Sunday night.
Lasting just a tad longer than Cueto did, Arroyo silenced the San Francisco Giantson one hit over seven innings in a 9-0 rout that gave the Reds a two-game lead in the division series.
With the series heading to Cincinnati for the remainer of the best-of-five series, there now is the distinct possibility the Reds won't need Cueto to pitch again this week. Or, for that matter, Mat Latos, who pitched four innings of emergency relief Saturday.
"It's important that we try to end it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially with our situation with Johnny, that would buy us some more time. It's always important to get it over with as soon as you can."
Cueto and Game 3 starter Homer Bailey flew back to Cincinnati ahead of the team Sunday, though Baker said Cueto was feeling much better. Even if Cueto is feeling like Bob Gibson in his prime, Baker said he wouldn't pitch until at least Game 4. That may not be necessary after Arroyo's performance Sunday.
Throwing a masterful mid-70s curve, mixing speeds and expertly spotting his fastball, Arroyo did not allow a baserunner until Brandon Belt's two-out single in the fifth inning. The only other baserunner he allowed was Buster Posey, who walked in the seventh.
"A no-hitter in this type of environment is almost impossible to do and it's something you're not thinking about," Arroyo said. "The win for the ball club is the nirvana, there is nothing else to think about. If something else happens crazy like that, then it's icing on the cake. But to get through the fifth inning without having to pitch from the stretch but one time was really big. It allows you to get in your groove, you're not wasting a lot of energy with guys on base.
"Two years ago we didn't win a game in the playoffs, so just getting off to a good start and having the ball club believe, the fan base believe, all those types of things can help you later on."
Well, it certainly helps more than losing the first two games.
The Giants' season rests in the hand of Ryan Vogelsong, who will start Tuesday's Game 3 rather than former ace and two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who had an ugly 5.18 ERA this season. Lincecum gave Giants fans their only reason to cheer Sunday night -- apart from the nightly playing of the Gangnam Style video on the scoreboard -- when he pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Manager Bruce Bochy removed Lincecum after 25 pitches to keep him available to pitch if needed in Game 3, 4 or 5. "I've talked to Timmy. He's all in on this," Bochy said before the game about using Lincecum in the bullpen. "He understands and says he wants to do whatever he can do to help the ball club move on."
Of course, the Giants have to win Game 3 before a Game 4 starter even becomes an issue, and to do so, they have to muster some offense. They scored only two runs the first two game, one on a wild pitch.
"This is when you show what you got," outfielder Hunter Pence said of San Francisco's 0-2 hole.
Arroyo threw 91 pitches before Baker removed him as a precaution after the Reds scored five runs in a long, drawn-out eighth inning.
"We might have to pitch him on three days rest," Baker said. "So at that period of time, we had to save him for later."
Again though, that may not be an issue.
"The pitchers have stepped up just like the whole team did when Joey Votto went down," said second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has a homer, two doubles and four RBIs. "Everybody stepped their game up. That's what it's all about. Our pitching staff has been great. Hopefully, Johnny can come back but if not, that's something to worry about later on. Latos and Sam LeCure did a great job [in Game 1], and Bronson just came out of nowhere. It's beautiful. I'm loving this team."