From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Bronson Arroyo had never won in San Francisco before pitching a playoff masterpiece.There were all kinds of memorable firsts this weekend for the gutsy Cincinnati Reds, who beat the San Francisco Giants 9-0 on Sunday night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their NL division series -- and head home to Ohio on quite a roll.Ryan Ludwick hit his first postseason home run and Ryan Hanigan drove in his first playoff run. More than anything on this night, it was Arroyo's turn to celebrate on what he figured to be a fun flight back to Cincinnati."We couldn't put ourselves in a better situation," he said. "It 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 has been built, which is going to be nice."Arroyo, who was winless in his first six starts in San Francisco, retired his first 14 batters and delivered a gem a day after 19-game winner Johnny Cueto went down with a back injury.A pair of Ryans provided the big hits. Ludwick connected leading off the second inning for his first career playoff homer and Hanigan hit a two-run single in the fourth and a later RBI single. Jay Bruce added a two-run double and Joey Votto had three hits in his first multihit postseason game."Coming on the road, you think about getting one as a success and victory," Bruce said. "To be able come here and get two is very important."Former San Francisco skipper Dusty Baker came into his old stomping grounds by the bay and left with two commanding victories 10 years after managing the Giants within six outs of a World Series title before falling short.He walked through the hallway afterward greeting cheering fans with smiles, high-fives, hugs, waves and even a few hang-loose signs."We still love you, Dusty!" one woman yelled.Many fans didn't stick around until the end to see the Giants get handed their worst playoff shutout in franchise history.Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Homer Bailey (13-10), who pitched a no-hitter Sept. 28 at Pittsburgh, takes the mound as the Reds try to close out the series against Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (14-9).The Reds won their first playoff game in 17 years by taking Game 1 without their ace Saturday night, and now they're going back home looking for their own sweep after the Phillies eliminated them in a frustrating three-game first round two years ago."You're not comfortable at all until it's over," Baker said. "We've been there before. It's hard to take the last breath out of anything."The Reds will try for their first postseason sweep since beating the Dodgers in the first round in 1995. Cincinnati got swept in the NL championship series that year by Atlanta to start what became a seven-game postseason losing streak before Saturday's win.The shaggy-haired Arroyo, the right-hander with that high leg kick slightly resembling the familiar motion of Giants Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, went untouched before Brandon Belt's two-out single to the gap in right-center with two out in the fifth. San Francisco didn't get another hit until Pablo Sandoval lined a double off the right-field arcade with two outs in the ninth."You hate to get beat like that, especially at home," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It happened. We know where we're at right now. We know our backs are to the wall. ... They've done a great job all year bouncing back."The 35-year-old Arroyo worked ahead and had four straight strikeouts during one stretch to baffle the Giants.Arroyo's seven innings marked his longest postseason outing in five starts and 13 appearances -- and he couldn't have picked a better moment to do it.Cueto threw all of eight pitches in Saturday's 5-2 win before leaving with back spasms, and Mat Latos and a patchwork pitching staff handled the rest.Baker said he picked Arroyo for Game 2 here in part because the righty is susceptible to giving up home runs after he allowed 26 this year. And AT&T Park is "one of the most forgiving ballparks in baseball."Arroyo thoroughly outpitched Madison Bumgarner to beat the Giants for the first time since 2008. He had gone 0-2 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts since, getting two no-decisions facing San Francisco this season.And he took the hard-luck loss in Game 2 against the Phillies in 2010 as the victim of a blown save.Boy did he give the bullpen a break with this one. Baker might have left him in longer had it not been a long inning before."A no-hitter in this type of environment is nearly impossible," Arroyo said. "A win for the ballclub is the pinnacle, nirvana."Cincinnati beat San Francisco's two best pitchers on their home field. Matt Cain lost Game 1.Bumgarner had pitched a one-hitter June 28 against the Reds at home, but was nothing close to that dominant this time.The last time Baker managed in a playoff setup like this season -- with the higher seed opening on the road for the first two games -- he was on the other end. In 1997, while managing the favored Giants, San Francisco lost the first two games in Florida and the Marlins completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series at Candlestick Park en route to the World Series title.Baker has felt good about these Reds all along, even more so after recently missing 11 games while recovering from a mini-stroke, including when they clinched the NL Central."He's kind of the heartbeat of this team," Bruce said. "To have him back for the last series and starting the playoffs, especially in San Francisco, where he obviously has a ton of history and is a storied manager here, it's good. It gives us a vibe that's pretty easy to play for."He is getting contributions from throughout his lineup and a ready-for-anything pitching staff.On Saturday, it was Brandon Phillips with three hits and a two-run homer and Bruce with a solo shot. The Reds added on late in Game 2 against the Giants' typically reliable bullpen with Bruce's eighth-inning double, a run-scoring triple from Drew Stubbs and an RBI single by Phillips.Ludwick, who came in just 1 for 16 against Bumgarner, silenced the orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,505 AT&T Park in a hurry when he sent the first pitch of the second inning over the center-field wall.The Reds sure made the Giants' pitcher friendly ballpark feel longball friendly the way they hit in these two games.Many of the fans quickly made for the exits after the Reds went ahead 6-0 on Bruce's two-run double in the eighth."We need to go to their place and play aggressive and try to change the momentum," Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro said. "Keep fighting, you never know what's going to happen. Their momentum is really good right now."Tim Lincecum entered in relief for the Giants in the top of the sixth trailing 4-0. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, whose rocky season kept him out of the playoff rotation, pumped his fist after striking out Hanigan to end the sixth before a scoreless seventh.NOTES:Arroyo had never gone six innings in the postseason before Sunday. ... San Francisco was shut out six times during the regular season, tied for second-fewest in the NL with Philadelphia. ... Cueto returned to Cincinnati along with Bailey. ... 2010 World Series MVP Edgar Renteria threw out the ceremonial first pitch and stopped by the clubhouse. "I'm very touched," he said. "The fans, they remember and appreciate everything. I'm never going to forget this time. They still remember what we did in 2010. It's unbelievable."
The 2017 MLB Wild Card race is at full throttle and at this point it will be a matter of who gets hot at the right time.
Both races will not be settled this week. Likely we will have to wait until the final weekend to see who will be in the postseason.
With so many teams still in the hunt, the American League race is absolutely bonkers. While the National League looks more condensed, the schedule has this playing out up until the final game of the season.
RELATED: FULL MLB POSTSEASON UPDATE
Specifically looking at the American League, the race for the second Wild Card spot is wide open. Ten teams are still mathematically alive but realistically it is six teams battling for one position.
The New York Yankees (85-67) completed an impressive three game series sweep over the Twins, winning the series by a combined score of 18-6. New York’s postseason magic number is three but they have their sights on the Boston Red Sox for the AL East Division.
Well ahead of everyone else in the race, the Yankees will still be a factor in the battle for the second Wild Card. They play three teams (Toronto – six games, Tampa Bay – three games, Kansas City – one game) that are still alive.
Losing five of their last six, the Minnesota Twins (78-74) are not sitting in a comfortable position. This weekend against the Tigers is crucial in solidifying their position because they travel to Cleveland next week for a three game series. That is a series they do not want to enter with a one-to-two game lead on the Los Angeles Angels.
Being the first team out does not put the Angels (76-75) in a good position because they are currently in a series with the Indians and then travel to the Houston Astros over the weekend.
The Texas Rangers (75-76) are in a prime position to make-up ground playing Seattle and Oakland in eight of their final 11 games.
Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles face off this weekend for a four-game series. Anything but a sweep or a 3-1 series win would basically eliminate each team from contention.
AL WILD CARD RACE:
New York Yankees: +7.0
Minnesota Twins: ---
Los Angeles Angels: -1.5
Texas Rangers: -2.5
Kansas City Royals: -3.5
Seattle Mariners: -4.0
Tampa Bay Rays: -4.0
Baltimore Orioles: -5.5
Toronto Blue Jays: -7.0
Oakland Athletics: -9.0
Less crazy but perhaps more interesting is the race in the National League. It’s a four-team race for two positions, with two teams each from the West and the Central.
Sitting 6.5 games to the good, the Arizona Diamondbacks (88-65) are in a pretty good spot. They do not play a single team over .500 the rest of the way and can essentially be on cruise control the rest of the way until October.
The Colorado Rockies (82-70) are positioned the best out of the remaining teams. Plenty of opportunities for the team to gain on their lead with the Padres on the road and the Marlins at home in their next two series.
If the Rockies were to slip, the Milwaukee Brewers (81-71) and St. Louis Cardinals (79-72) are right behind them. Both are preoccupied with their NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs that is still in each team’s control.
NL WILD CARD RACE:
Arizona Diamondbacks: +5.5
Colorado Rockies: ---
Milwaukee Brewers: -1.0
St. Louis Cardinals: -2.5
Miami Marlins: -10.0
On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast, we previewed 2017-18 training camp with Sports Illustrated's Andrew Sharp. Chase Hughes and Chris Miller first laid out their biggest storylines entering training camp, including what to expect from John Wall.
After Sharp hung up, Chase and Chris gave their predictions for individual awards and who will win the title in the 2017-18 NBA season.
You can listen to the episode right here:
You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!
[RELATED: MORRIS TO MISS START OF TRAINING CAMP]
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