CINCINNATI -- As Giants lefty Barry Zito was baffling Reds hitters during a rainy, waterlogged evening, Reds pitchers knew they had one overriding task.
Just keep it close and hope the cavalry comes. It did Wednesday.
Zito took a shutout into the seventh and saw it disappear into a rain gutter as the Reds rallied for four runs in the inning and a 4-2 win over the Giants. It was Cincinnati's fifth win in its last six games, including the first two of the three-game series vs. San Francisco.
"That was a good one to win and a good one to come back. Zito had us eating out of his hand big time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Zito, who took a 1.71 ERA into the night, was at the 100-pitch mark when the struggling Scott Rolen led off the bottom of the seventh and deposited a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats for his first home run of the season. Zito was lifted from the game before events turned disastrous.
Rolen entered the game batting just .175.
"That's kind of been the joke around here. I get a hit about once every two weeks," Rolen said. "It was timely. [Zack] Cozart and I sometimes joke, 'That's a career saver right there.' He was trying not to overblow it, but that's OK. That was a necessary result right there."
Before Rolen's homer, Zito had retired 16 of 19 that included a stretch of 12 in a row. Once the bats perked up, momentum kept building against right-hander Clay Hensley as Ryan Ludwick followed with a single. Hensley slipped on wet grass as he fielded Ryan Hanigan's sacrifice bunt and airmailed a throw over first base for an error that put runners on second and third.
"I just slipped," Hensley said. "The ball was wet. It was the perfect storm of [stuff]. For me, you have to replace your feet and make that throw. It just didn't end up working out. ... The worst part about it is I felt I made my pitches, and if I don't throw that ball away, we're out of the inning."
Struggling pinch-hitter Willie Harris failed to drive the runners in with a weak popout to second base but would be picked up by Giants mistakes.
Hensley walked Drew Stubbs on four pitches to load the bases. Wilson Valdez attempted a squeeze bunt that barely rolled foul on the left side. But on a 1-2 pitch, he lifted a sacrifice fly to short right field. Ludwick was sent home from third base and slid safely with the tying run just ahead of a throw from Nate Schierholtz, which bounced behind the plate for an error that advanced the runners.
"Schierholtz can really throw," Baker said. "You've got to take a chance right there. It was a good play by [third-base coach] Mark Berry to send him. It was a heck of an at-bat by Valdez and a heck of a slide by Ludwick. I don't know if he was out or safe if [the catcher] held on to the ball, but it was a close play."
A third Giants pitcher, lefty Jeremy Affeldt, was summoned to face Joey Votto. In a 0-1 count, Affeldt fired a wild pitch way outside that scored Hanigan with the go-ahead run. Votto then scorched a laser to center field for an RBI double that put Cincinnati up by two runs.
In the early going, it was a battle of softer-throwing and crafty pitchers between Zito and Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. However, it was Arroyo getting touched up with a lot of hits and had nine allowed over five innings. Nevertheless, only two runs crossed. With two outs in the third, Angel Pagan sent a 2-0 pitch over the center-field fence for a solo home run. In the fourth, Brandon Crawford lined a single to center field where Stubbs bobbled the ball for an error. It allowed Hector Sanchez to score an unearned run and gave San Francisco a 2-0 lead.
"We weren't going to get a lot off of Zito and I knew that I would have to keep it tight," Arroyo said. "I had runners on base and was just lucky to get out of those innings to give us an opportunity to keep us in the ballgame. If we go down 4-0, it's probably a wrap."
As poorly as the Giants' bullpen performed, the Reds' relievers were tremendous. Following Arroyo, J.J. Hoover pitched a scoreless sixth inning in his Major League debut, overcoming a leadoff walk. Jose Arredondo earned the victory with a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. Aroldis Chapman gave up a single and hit a batter with two outs but had a scoreless eighth inning that ended when he gloved a screamer of a liner off Joaquin Arias' bat.
Closer Sean Marshall pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save. The Reds' bullpen has a 1.93 ERA over its last six games.
"Bronson had a nice game. Arredondo, Chapman and the new guy Hoover all had good innings," Marshall said. "They kept us in the game and gave us a chance to wake up our bats and score some runs. There's nothing like coming from behind and winning a series in the second game."