CINCINNATI -- The San Francisco Giants staved off elimination for a second consecutive day, and have forced a decisive Game 5 in the National League Division Series.
Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval homered on Wednesday, lifting the Giants to an 8-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 4 of the division series at Great American Ball Park.
Barry Zito lasted just 2 2/3 innings for San Francisco, but the Giants bullpen stymied the Reds' bats. Tim Lincecum (1-0) allowed just one run and two hits and fanned six over 4 1/3 innings of relief to help the Giants tie the best-of-five series at 2-2.
The Reds trailed 5-3 before the Giants produced a three-run seventh-inning rally highlighted by Sandoval's two-run homer.
The series concludes on Thursday afternoon, and Game 5 will start at 1:07 p.m. EST if the A's beat Detroit Wednesday nght, but the Giants-Reds game will start at 2:07 p.m. if the Tigers win Wednesday.
The winner of the Giants-Reds series will move on to the NL Championship Series against either St. Louis or Washington. The Cardinals lead that series 2-1.
Ryan Ludwick homered for Cincinnati, which on Thursday will try to avoid becoming the first team since the division series was added in 1995 to lose a series after leading two games to none.
Mike Leake, named an emergency starter hours before the game and making his first career postseason start, allowed Pagan's solo home run to right field on just his second pitch as the Giants went ahead 1-0.
Zito issued three consecutive walks in the first inning, including one to Todd Frazier with the bases loaded to force home the tying run. Zito threw 29 pitches in the first, but Cincinnati left the bases loaded when Dioner Navarro struck out swinging to end the inning.
Zito, who was not on the Giants' postseason roster in 2010, was making his first playoff appearance since Oct. 10, 2006, when he started for Oakland in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The Giants regained the lead on Blanco's towering two-run home run off Leake in the second inning, making the score 3-1.
Ludwick led off the third with a solo home run off Zito, his second homer in the division series, trimming the Reds' deficit to 3-2.
Zito exited with two outs in the third inning after allowing two runs on four hits. George Kontos replaced Zito, who struck out four and walked four.
Leake retired eight of nine batters following Blanco's home run.
Leake also contributed with his bat, leading off the fourth with an infield hit on a slow grounder that Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro was unable to corral. Zack Cozart singled with one out to put runners on first and second.
But the Giants bullpen came through when Jose Mijares struck out Joey Votto, and Lincecum struck out Ludwick to end the inning. Joaquin Arias and Pagan began the fifth with consecutive doubles, increasing San Francisco's lead to 4-2. Sandoval's sacrifice fly off Sam LeCure gave the Giants a three-run lead.
Leake pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits.
NOTES: The Cincinnati Reds didn't officially name Leake as the starting pitcher for Wednesday's Game 4 until a few hours before the game. "It was a tough decision, big-time," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. Leake replaced Johnny Cueto on the postseason roster. Cueto, who's recovering from a strained right oblique, will not be eligible to pitch in the National League Championship Series should the Reds advance, but would be eligible for the World Series. ... Baker stuck with his routine of resting third baseman Scott Rolen for a day game following a night game. Frazier made his first career postseason start on Wednesday at third base. ... Prior to Wednesday's game, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy addressed his decision to start Hector Sanchez behind the plate and Buster Posey at first base for Game 4. "Yeah, we talked about it quite a bit as a staff," Bochy said. "I think Hector has done a great job handling Zito, and I think Buster has too, and I think we're getting a good bat in there." ... In Game 4 on Tuesday night the Giants became just the fifth team in MLB postseason history to win despite striking out 16 times. Only three teams have struck out more times in a postseason victory.