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Associated Press photos
Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips ducks away from a pitch during Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday.
San Francisco 2, Cincinnati 1

Giants hustle to stay alive

Error helps San Francisco win in 10

San Francisco relief pitcher Sergio Romo reacts after the Giants defeated the Reds 2-1 in 10 innings in Cincinnati.

– Joaquin Arias hit a grounder toward third base and took off toward first, covering 90 feet in a blink as a full-to-capacity ballpark went silent with angst.

Which would get there first, the infielder or the ball? Who would win the decisive playoff dash?

“That’s the fastest I’ve ever run to first,” Arias said.

Fast enough to extend the San Francisco Giants’ season one more day.

Reds third baseman Scott Rolen bobbled the short-hop, giving Arias enough time to beat the throw as the go-ahead run scored for a 2-1 victory Tuesday night that avoided an NL division series sweep.

Hardly able to get a hit the last two games, the Giants turned a passed ball and a misplayed grounder into a win that cut their series deficit to 2-1 and extended Cincinnati’s 17 years of home postseason futility.

“These are the type of games we’ve played all season long,” said Sergio Romo, who pitched the last two innings for the win. “We are a gritty and grinding team.”

And, with their season on the line, a little lucky, too.

“We got a break there at the end,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

Left-hander Barry Zito will pitch Game 4 today for the Giants, who have won the last 11 times he started. The Reds have to decide whether to try ace Johnny Cueto, forced out of the opener in San Francisco on Saturday with spasms in his back and side. Manager Dusty Baker said after the game that they hadn’t decided whether to let Cueto try it, bring back Mat Latos on short rest again, or replace Cueto with Mike Leake, who wasn’t on the division series roster.

Switching out Cueto would leave the Reds ace ineligible to pitch in the championship series should the Reds get that far.

“It’s very difficult, but it all depends on if your ace can’t go or whatever it is,” Baker said. “That’s part of the conversation – us going without him. We realize what’s at stake.”

They were hoping to avoid having to make that choice. One grounder forced the issue.

The Giants managed only three hits against Homer Bailey and the Reds’ bullpen, but got two of them in the 10th, a leadoff single from NL batting champ Buster Posey followed by a single by Hunter Pence, who pulled his left calf on a wild swing before getting his hit. Ryan Hanigan’s passed ball with two out advanced the runners and set the stage for Arias.

Rolen, an eight-time Gold Glove winner, couldn’t cleanly come up with Arias’ grounder, which put him in a tough position.

“I’ve gone through the play many times in my mind between then and now, and I think I would play it the same way,” Rolen said. “It hit my glove. I just couldn’t get it to stick.”

The Reds haven’t won a home playoff game since 1995, the last time they reached the NL championship series. One win away from making it back there, they couldn’t beat a Giants team that has barely been able to get a hit.

San Francisco got only two hits while losing 9-0 on Sunday night and, setting up that 2-0 deficit in the series. The Giants had only one single in seven innings off Homer Bailey. The Giants also won despite striking out 16 times.

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