SAN FRANCISCO -- Against the gorgeous backdrop of AT&T Park and McCovey Cove in October, never have Bronson Arroyo's slow-cooked curve and simmering command looked more striking.
Red October? In the closest thing the Giants have had to a must-win game this season, Arroyo muzzled 'em.
Giant statement? In a page right out of Tony Bennett's lyrics book, Arroyo, the guitar-playing pitcher, exponentially increased the odds that the Giants left their season in San Francisco as this series swings back to Cincinnati.
This NL Division Series has gone Dead Red with Cincinnati's 9-0 Game 2 win on Sunday. Now, Dusty Baker's club is in position to go for the sweep in Game 3 Tuesday. And if it swings and misses there, then Cincinnati will have two more opportunities to close out the Giants at home on the shores of the Ohio River.
"He threw a little bit of everything," said Hunter Pence, just one of the Giants who had no chance against Arroyo on this evening. "He always throws sinkers, sliders, curves, he changes arm angles. And that's what he did."
Sounds simple. But the Giants would have had a much easier time breaking out of Alcatraz back in the day than they had of solving Arroyo on THIS day.
"These games are as big as any my whole career," Arroyo said. "I go back to pitching an inning in some playoff games in Boston, but every year that goes by you feel like the next one is the biggest thing.
"And for this ballclub, two years ago we didn't win a game in the playoffs, and just getting off to a good start and having the ballclub believe, the fan base believe, all those types of things can help you later on."
Cincinnati's Game 1 win Saturday was as much novelty as anything else. It was the Reds' first postseason win in 17 years, since they swept the Dodgers in a 1995 NL Division Series.
But behind Arroyo on Sunday, the Reds moved way past novelty and straight into bruiser mode. We knew these guys were good, they finished this season with the second-best record in the majors. But the way they've dominated the Giants the past two nights, it's clear that they're capable-of-winning-a-World-Series good. Goodness.
Arroyo was masterful, mixing and matching his pitches artfully throughout seven shutout innings.
Following three fly-ball outs in the first, he didn't allow another ball out of the infield until Brandon Belt's fifth-inning single. He retired the first 14 San Francisco hitters in a row, also through Belt's single.
Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price surprised some by giving Arroyo the Game 2 start over Mat Latos. But unlike their Game 1 plan that went off the rails when Johnny Cueto's back forced him out after eight pitches and Latos wound up working in relief, the Game 2 blueprint was carried out to perfection.
The reason they slotted Arroyo for Game 2 instead of later was simple: He has a tendency to surrender fly balls, and in small Great American Ballpark, many of those fly balls land on the wrong side of the fence. The 26 homers he surrendered this season ranked tied for fifth-most in the National League.
"He's been throwing the ball well, and I just thought that him and this ballpark, this is a forgiving ballpark, you know, I thought it would be right for him," Baker said. "Even though I don't think he'd won a game here."
In AT&T Park? Nuh-uh. Lifetime, Arroyo came into Game 2 0-4 with a 4.11 ERA in six starts in San Francisco's jewel by the bay.
Sunday night in early October? No problem. The few fly balls he threw did not find the seats. And from the second through the sixth, he obtained 14 consecutive outs via either ground balls or strikeouts.
Baker is hitting every right note so far in this series. And so are his Reds.
The Giants mustered one lousy hit against Arroyo through eight innings. One night after the Reds had to scramble and squeeze 26 outs from their bullpen ... Arroyo, who went 12-10 with a 3.74 ERA this season, calmed things down by obtaining 24 outs.
Now, the only way the Reds could be in better shape heading home is if, somehow, a 26-year-old Pete Rose showed up and was ready to help. Series leads don't get much more commanding than this.
"Without question, it's going to be a nice, happy flight," Arroyo said of the club's overnight charter home. "We couldn't put ourselves in a better situation.
"Doesn't mean you're going to close it out but, for us, personally, I know the fans are going to be as jacked as they have ever been in that ballpark since it's been built."