CINCINNATI -- The Giants are still alive ... but how?

How can they get no-hit for 52/3 innings, strike out 16 times, generate almost no offense for nine innings, and still win Game 3 to avoid NLDS elimination?

They're the street-fighting Giants, that's how -- whatever doesn't kill them only makes them stronger, hardier, and more determined to stay upright.

You better get them early, or else they're coming to get you late.

"We were facing elimination there," manager Bruce Bochy said, "and they persevered."

And now, after Tuesday's bruising, scrappy 2-1 extra-inning victory, the scratch-and-claw Giants have the Reds on the ropes just a bit.

Thanks to injury, the Reds have huge question marks in their starting rotation -- and no announced starter for Wednesday's Game 4.

The Giants are throwing Barry Zito, hoping for the best, and with the true belief that the longer this goes, the stronger they get.

"These are the type of games we've played all season long," said closer Sergio Romo, who got the win Tuesday by shutting down Cincinnati in the ninth and 10th innings."We are a gritty and grinding team. ... If this is the example of the will to fight, the will to win, the will to survive, this is the way we have been playing all year long."

That was entirely the case in Game 3, when the Giants started out looking pathetic against Reds starter Homer Bailey, gradually worked to a competitive level, and kept putting pressure on Cincinnati.

Then the Giants put on a finishing kick that left the Reds -- and the Great American Ball Park home crowd -- a little dazed.

Throughout this series, the Giants have taken some shots, they're still in trouble, and they're probably inferior to the Reds.

But they've got some energy left, and they keep coming.

"I think we have to be really happy that we came away with this win tonight," said catcher Buster Posey, "because we didn't swing the bats very well at all."

Not until the 10th inning, when -- after nearly three games -- the Giants finally found a Reds pitcher they could hit.

That would be reliever Jonathan Broxton, who gave up singles to Posey and Hunter Pence to open the inning.

Then things got nutty, just the way the Giants like it.

How the winning run scored: Posey took third on a passed ball, and scored with two outs when Reds third baseman Scott Rolen fumbled Joaquin Arias' easy grounder.

Of course, the Giants still trail in the series, 2-1, and still have to beat the Reds twice in the Reds' ballpark -- Wednesday and, if it lasts that long, Thursday.

But the Giants can't lose this series if they don't lose again, and they know the Reds never wanted to get to Game 4.

It's likely that the Reds will activate Mike Leake to make the start Wednesday and put injured ace Johnny Cueto on the disabled list.

That's not a move the Reds wanted to make, and if the Giants win Wednesday, that sets up an epic Game 5, probably Matt Cain against Mat Latos.

The longer this goes ...

"For us, I don't know who they're going to throw, I don't know any of that stuff," said reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who also chipped in two scoreless innings. "But I know we've got to win every game."

The Giants won Tuesday by getting a gutsy performance out of starter Ryan Vogelsong, Affeldt, Romo and the other relievers.

They won because they kept hanging on -- despite the frustrations of the first two games, despite the cold weather, despite knowing that any slip-up would mean extinction.

"It's definitely less frustrating when we win," Posey said of the Giants' continued hitting struggles. "Hopefully with that last inning, getting a couple of hits, we can take momentum into tomorrow."

And once again, the longer it went, the better the Giants got.

It was not the stuff of legends, but it was practically everything the Giants could've hoped for in this NLDS experience.

All they wanted was another day, another game, another chance to test the Reds, who looked so good in Games 1 and 2 at AT&T Park.

The Giants wanted to keep playing, and to make sure the Reds had to keep playing. The Reds still have the advantage, and the Reds still have loads of talent.

But the longer this goes, the longer the Reds have to deal with the Giants, who aren't going away, not just yet.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.