(Reuters) - The Cincinnati Reds survived the early loss of ace starter Johnny Cueto to beat the Giants 5-2 in San Francisco on Saturday in the opening game of their best-of-five National League Division Series.
Cueto left the game in the first inning after just eight pitches because of back spasms but the hard-hitting, NL Central-winning Reds coped well in his absence to claim their first postseason win since 1995.
Brandon Phillips blasted a two-run homer in the third to give Cincinnati early control at AT&T Park, where San Francisco starter Matt Cain suffered the loss after giving up three runs and five hits in five innings.
"I was just trying to make things happen for the team," Phillips told reporters. "They talked to me before the game, they were like, 'Hey B, we're on TV. It's time for you to shine.'
"I was just like, 'Let me see what I can do.' (Cain) left a hanging curveball up there and I just took advantage of it. He's a great pitcher ... we just had a good day at the plate."
After striking out Angel Pagan to open the game, Cueto pulled up on his second pitch to Marco Scutaro and walked off the mound to be replaced by Sam LeCure, Mat Latos and three other relievers.
Cueto, a 19-games winner in the regular season whose 2.58 earned run average over the past two years is the third best in the majors, was later assessed by the team as "day to day".
"I really feel better right now, but I have to see how I feel tomorrow when I come back," Cueto said.
"I feel really proud about my team. I feel proud about the pitchers. They all came in and did their job. And not just them, the hitters came in and they backed me up tonight."
PHILLIPS GIVES REDS CONTROL
Despite the loss of Cueto, the Reds went ahead 2-0 when Phillips struck a homer to left center field in the top of the third after he latched on to a hanging, breaking ball from Cain.
Phillips' one-out homer, which also scored Drew Stubbs, ended a remarkable stretch of 23 1-3 consecutive innings by Cain in the postseason without allowing an earned run.
Jay Bruce padded Cincinnati's lead to 3-0 when he homered on a fly ball to right center field in the top of the fourth.
Giants catcher Buster Posey gave his team a boost in the bottom of the sixth with a homer over the left-field wall, but the Reds added two more runs through Ryan Hanigan and Xavier Paul in the top of the ninth.
Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman gave up a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth but ended the game with Giants runners on second and third base when he struck out Posey with a fastball.
"This is one game and sure you hate to lose the opener and we're at home, but we have a lot of baseball left," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose team are back in the playoffs for the first time since they won the World Series two years ago.
"These guys have been resilient all year, and now it's time for us to wash this off and be ready to go back at it tomorrow."
The teams stay in San Francisco for Game Two on Sunday before the series switches to Cincinnati
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)