CINCINNATI -- The most emotional day of the Giants' season ended with pure, unadulterated joy.
Buster Posey scored the go-ahead run on an error in the top of the 10th inning at Great American Ball Park as the Giants fought to a 2-1 victory Tuesday over the Cincinnati Reds. The Giants trail 2-1 in the best-of-five National League Division Series after beating a team that again had a starting pitcher flirt with a no-hitter.
The seeds for victory were planted during an intense pregame meeting that several players said was more apt of a football locker room. Hunter Pence, who later contributed to the winning run while fighting through a calf cramp, gave a fiery speech to a team that came to Cincinnati needing three victories to keep its season alive.
"It really touched home," starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said. "It wasn't what he said, it was the intensity of it. The truth of it."
The new truth for the Giants is that they are more than just alive. As the banged-up Reds scrambled to find a Game 4 starter, the Giants stood defiantly in the visiting clubhouse, vowing to bring the same fight Wednesday.
"We want to play more baseball -- together," Pence said. "This win was the embodiment of 'team.' Everyone came together."
Whereas Pence led the pregame charge, Vogelsong did the heavy lifting once the lights went on. A night earlier, he had received a text message from friend Jamie Moyer, who has been pitching in the big leagues
Moyer recapped Vogelsong's fairy-tale path from journeyman to All-Star and told him, "I know you've been waiting a long time for this. Just go get it done."
Vogelsong more than held his own, keeping pace with Homer Bailey for five innings even as the Reds starter bid for his second no-hitter in three starts. Vogelsong's night wasn't easy at first; the Reds had three hits and a walk in the first inning but scored just one run, in large part because Brandon Phillips ran into an out at third base.
Vogelsong got a second Pence push in the second inning, when the right fielder crashed into the wall in foul territory while making a sliding catch. They met in the dugout, and this time Vogelsong was the one doing the talking.
"I told him, 'You don't know how much that play did for me,' " Vogelsong said. "And I really didn't need much motivation because this was my first postseason start."
Calm and locked in after Pence's catch, Vogelsong cruised through the fifth inning. He allowed just two more base runners before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
After the win, Vogelsong's voice cracked as he tried to put his first postseason experience into words.
"I've been waiting for this moment a long time," he said.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Vogelsong "saved" the rest of the Giants as they tried to get settled in, and it took quite a while. The Giants had tied the game in the third inning on a hit batsman, a walk and two sacrifices, but Bailey owned the stage for the next four innings. He struck out six straight at one point and finished with a Reds postseason record 10 strikeouts.
Two nights after Bronson Arroyo pitched seven innings of one-hit ball in Game 2, Bailey did the same, allowing just a Marco Scutaro single with two outs in the sixth inning. Bailey became just the fourth pitcher in postseason history to throw seven innings, allow one hit and strike out 10, but he didn't leave with a lead, thanks to Vogelsong.
"Yeah, I knew he was throwing a no-hitter," Vogelsong said. "I also knew I had to put up zeros and keep us right there."
Pence, praised by Vogelsong, volleyed it back in his direction. "He was enormous," Pence said. "He kept getting us back (in the dugout). Kept getting us back in there."
Still, the Giants at first looked hapless against the Reds bullpen. In all, the Giants struck out 16 times, the most in a postseason game since 2005.
But Posey got them going in the 10th with a leadoff single against Jonathan Broxton. Pence had cramped up in Game 2 and did so again in the middle of his at-bat against Broxton. But with just one position player left on the bench, he stayed in the game and knocked a base hit into left. It was the first hit of the series for Pence, who said he would be able to start Game 4.
"Maybe (the cramp) helped my at-bat," Pence said, smiling. "I couldn't move my legs."
He hobbled to first and then moved no farther for two at-bats as Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady struck out. With Joaquin Arias at the plate, a passed ball advanced Posey and Pence. Arias hit a 1-2 fastball to third and put his head down, not knowing Scott Rolen had bobbled the grounder. He beat the throw to first as Posey scored the run that gave the Giants the lead -- their first of the series.
"I think we have to be really happy that we came away with this win tonight," Posey said, "Because we didn't swing the bats very well at all."
The Giants were all smiles as highlights of the win played in a clubhouse where the players had stood hours earlier, listening as Pence delivered a message to "keep pushing, keep pushing."
The Giants were happy, but they weren't satisfied.
"We came here to win three games in a row," center fielder Angel Pagan said. "We didn't come here to win one game."