SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy knew he was potentially placing Tuesday night's outcome on the line at an unusually early stage: the fourth inning.
The Giants trailed by two runs when Bochy sent Pablo Sandoval to pinch-hit for starter Ty Blach with the bases loaded and one out. If Sandoval couldn't produce, Bochy would have to negotiate the final five innings without his starting pitcher and, possibly, with a two-run deficit.
But Sandoval made the move look good by smacking a two-run double past third base for the biggest hit in a four-run, fourth-inning uprising against Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle. And the bullpen did the rest, as Pierce Johnson, Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland contributed a scoreless inning apiece to propel the Giants past the Reds, 5-3.
"You go for it," Bochy said. "It's great when it works, but if it doesn't, then you've used your 'pen quite a bit. Because of the job they did, it worked. … You have to do what you think is right for that game. I felt like we had the pitching to get us through the game. You can't take the starter out after four very often, but the [relievers] that we had needed work, almost."
The two hottest Giants remained in their respective grooves. Cincinnati led, 3-0, when Brandon Belt christened the Giants' big fourth with his eighth homer of the season. Besides matching Evan Longoria's team-high homer total, Belt also reached San Francisco bay on the fly with his drive, which increased his career Splash Hit total to eight.
Belt's on an 8-for-18 binge that includes three doubles, two homers and five RBIs. He definitely savors opposing the Reds, having built a .341 career batting average (45-for-132) against them. Dating back to May 13, 2017, Belt has homered in four consecutive games against Cincinnati.
Brandon Crawford went 4-for-4 to hike his May average to .455 (25-for-55) in 14 games. He has hoisted his batting average from .189 to .290 this month. Crawford singled to help set up the Giants' fourth-inning rally before singling and scoring in the eighth to fatten San Francisco's cushion.
But the game truly revolved around Bochy's fourth-inning move, which he implemented after Kelby Tomlinson struck out. Bochy considered factors other than the Mahle-versus-Sandoval matchup.
"It's not something you like doing and you do very often," Bochy said. "... Blach was throwing the ball, I thought, pretty good. When Tommy struck out, I just thought my hand was forced and I felt like we had enough pitching to get us through it. You don't know when those chances come up like that, so you go for it. That's what we did. Pablo made it look good by getting a huge hit there."
Andrew McCutchen generated the inning's final run, which put the Giants ahead, by beating out the back end of a potential double-play grounder. That enabled Austin Jackson to score. "That may get unnoticed," Bochy said.
The unswerving parade of relievers, who combined to allow two hits, walk none and strike out eight, ended with Strickland, whose ninth save in 11 opportunities and seventh in a row facilitated the Giants' ninth win in their last 12 home games.
"I felt everybody did their job. It was outstanding," Strickland said. "We've got confidence in whoever's in there."
And the Major Leagues' most successful club with the bases loaded is -- you guessed it -- the San Francisco Giants.
Well, maybe you didn't guess it. But the numbers don't lie. They say that the Giants' .379 batting average with the sacks full is currently the best in the bigs.
San Francisco's top performer in these situations is Jackson, who's batting .228 overall, but is 3-for-4 with the bases loaded.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Crawford lingered around second base after Mahle picked him off in the second inning. And for good reason: Replay reviews proved that Crawford was safe and the call was overturned. The Giants did not capitalize on the one-out break, though, as Mahle coaxed groundouts from Tomlinson and Blach.
The Giants will learn a little about Andrew Suarez's resilience in Wednesday's 12:45 p.m. PT series finale against Cincinnati. The rookie is coming off the shortest outing of his brief career, a four-inning performance on Friday at Pittsburgh where he yielded five runs and seven hits in an 11-2 Giants setback. Command has been a constant for Suarez, who has struck out 23 while walking four in 21 2/3 innings. The Reds will counter with Matt Harvey, making his second start since being traded from the Mets.