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CIN@SF Gm1: Bochy, Cain look forward to NLDS Game 1

From the first pitch of Game 1, and even before it, the National League Division Series matchup between the Reds and Giants promises to deliver all the ingredients of an October classic.

It'll feature a thunderous playoff atmosphere, begin with a stellar pitching matchup and include offenses that can make exciting things happen, albeit in different ways. Add it all together, and it's hard to tell where this matchup is headed or how it's going to end.

The Giants' Matt Cain and the Reds' Johnny Cueto will begin to provide the answers by displaying their pitching prowess from the outset, as the two right-handers take the mound for a 6:37 p.m. PT first pitch on Saturday before what no doubt will a rocking crowd at AT&T Park.

From there, two offenses -- the Reds with a powerful hitting corps that struggled a bit down the stretch, the Giants with a much more balanced attack than they had in their 2010 World Series run -- will see what they can do against two of the NL's strongest groups of arms.

With the Giants at home for the first two games of a 2-3 format against the No. 2-seeded Central champion Reds, two of the game's most storied franchises will square off in the postseason for the first time with a chance at October glory at stake.

The atmosphere will be orange-tinged bedlam from the start, although it's likely that Reds manager and Northern California native Dusty Baker -- who managed the Giants from 1993 to 2002, taking them to the World Series in that final year -- will receive a warm welcome just days after returning from a stroke suffered in September.

"I grew up with half of the people around here, and my relatives are all from around here," Baker said. "We'll see if they still love me on Sunday. I hope we start out 2-0. We'll see."

Finding that out starts when the first pitch comes out of the right hand of Cain, who added a perfect game to an already impressive resume on June 13, against the Astros. That was just part of what turned into a career season for the 28-year-old, who set a career low in ERA, at 2.79, and career highs of 16 wins and 193 strikeouts.

Cain enters this postseason experience two years removed from a spotless run through to the 2010 World Series championship, going 2-0 without allowing an earned run in 21 1/3 innings.

"It's an honor and something I'm excited about, throwing Game 1, but it's something that I'm also trying to stay even-keel with, thinking I need to go out there and make another start and do well," Cain said. "I think we will be in a good position after that."

Cain had two of his rougher outings of the regular season against the Reds, losing both while allowing eight earned runs and four homers in 13 innings.

Meanwhile, Cueto leads the Reds into the postseason after his own career year. With career highs of 19 wins, 33 starts and 217 innings pitched to go with a 2.78 ERA, he shined from his Opening Day start through the course of the season, albeit with a few struggles down the stretch.

Cueto pitched five strong innings for a no-decision in Game 3 of the 2010 Division Series, against the Phillies, but Philadelphia went on to sweep the series.

"I learned that it's the same. You don't change," Cueto said of that postseason experience. "It's the same baseball. You don't change anything."

Cueto's experience against the Giants this year was a June 28 start in San Francisco that pegged him with a loss after he allowed two earned runs in six innings. He has had good success at AT&T Park overall, allowing two earned runs in 13 innings covering two starts.

"This is a big ballpark. This is a pitching ballpark, so yeah, I like to pitch here," he said.

Reds: Frazier ready for any role
Rookie Todd Frazier turned some heads while giving the Reds excellent coverage at both corner infield positions when first baseman Joey Votto and third baseman Scott Rolen were sidelined, but he will likely serve a bench role in the playoffs.

Whatever he has the opportunity to do is fine with Frazier, who finished with 19 homers and 67 RBIs in 442 at-bats.

"I'll be coming in every day thinking I will be starting. I will keep that positive mind-set," Frazier said. "You never know when it's go time for me. I'll be ready every inning."

• The Reds brought 28 players to San Francisco as they weigh their options on getting down to 25. There are 15 pitchers among the 28, so the staff will consist of 12 if Cincinnati chooses to carry a third catcher in Devin Mesoraco.

• Several hitters have good history against Cain, including Votto (7-for-23), Ryan Ludwick (8-for-22, three homers) and Jay Bruce (6-for-13).

Giants: Scutaro is SF's secret weapon
When the Giants acquired Marco Scutaro, they knew they had gotten a veteran infielder who would help their cause. They found out down to the last 20 games that they got much more than that.

Scutaro, acquired from the Rockies on July 27, finished the season with a 20-game hitting streak. During the streak he batted .436 with five doubles and 17 RBIs.

"I knew he was a good player, but to see him day in and day out, you appreciate how good he is," manager Bruce Bochy said.

• The Giants, who carried 11 pitchers throughout their 2010 run to the World Series, are going with 12 in the Division Series. That includes three lefties in the bullpen -- Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares -- and on the position side includes Aubrey Huff, who has struggled since his 2010 heroics.

• Hunter Pence is the Giants starter with the most appearances vs. Cueto, going 8-for-29 with two doubles and 11 strikeouts against the right-hander. Reserve infielder Ryan Theriot, another former denizen of the NL Central, has the most at-bats against Cueto, with 43.

Worth noting
• Through the regular season, Baker stands No. 2 and Bochy No. 3 among active managers in career victories. Baker has 1,581 in 19 seasons and Bochy has 1,454 in 18, both short of Detroit manager Jim Leyland's total of 1,676 in 21 seasons. This marks the sixth postseason appearance as a manager for both Baker and Bochy.

• The season series went 4-3 in favor of the Reds, and Cincinnati now has a 20-13 advantage over the last five seasons. The final game between the two teams this season, on July 1, ended in a tough way for the Reds, who saw Bruce mistime his leap against the wall in right field, allowing an Angel Pagan fly ball to drop and the winning run to score.

• Both teams won their divisions going away after battling for position earlier in the year. The Giants spent 86 days in first place, including every day since Aug. 19 after spending much of the first half in second behind the Dodgers. The Reds spent 124 days in first place, including the last 83, starting with the first game after the All-Star break.

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