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SF@CIN: Belt cranks a solo shot to right

CINCINNATI -- Prodded for favorite memories of last October's stirring National League Division Series comeback, Giants manager Bruce Bochy mischievously recalled the sight of left-hander Jeremy Affeldt slipping on Great American Ball Park's visitor's dugout steps as he tried to avoid a foul ball.

When Monday's game began a little less than two hours later, Bochy continued to watch the Giants fall.

Their latest setback was Monday's rain-shortened, six-inning, 8-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, which contrasted sharply with the Giants' three consecutive elimination-game victories that sent them to the NL Championship Series. In fact, given the Giants' nine defeats in 11 games and the half-game margin that separates them from last place in the NL West, linking this club with last year's World Series champions is a bigger stretch than anything Willie McCovey ever tried at first base.

Under the circumstances, starting from scratch on Tuesday was a better alternative for the Giants. They probably would have had to exhaust their bullpen to finish the game, which was called after a one-hour, 28-minute delay.

"You want to play," Bochy said, "but with what we're looking at, it's coming down hard and there's flooding in [the dugout]. At some point you have to draw the line."

The Giants might soon have to do that with left-hander Mike Kickham (0-3), who disappeared in a hail of hits and runs as his ERA rose to 13.94. Submitting more ominous proof about his readiness for the big leagues, Kickham yielded seven runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.

For the third time in three Giants starts, Kickham worked a perfect first inning before faltering as the Reds scored four second-inning runs and three in the third. Bochy suggested that being forced to abandon the windup with runners on base challenged Kickham.

"Getting in the stretch, he seems to have a tougher time getting the ball where he wants and keeping it down," Bochy said. "He just started elevating the ball and pitching around the thigh to waist area. That's not going to work. The kid's got great stuff. These are all growing pains that you have with a young pitcher like this."

Giants apologists can claim that bad luck beset the ballclub. Cincinnati benefited from a pair of infield hits and Derrick Robinson's high second-inning chopper that cleared third baseman Pablo Sandoval's head for a two-run double.

But Reds manager Dusty Baker praised his hitters' approach.

"I think we were more aggressive tonight," Baker said. "We weren't getting deep in the count; we were attacking the first pitch. Sometimes that's what it takes. If you don't know what else to do, go on the attack."

Kickham struck out two Reds in the first inning, including 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto. Then came the second inning, which began with consecutive hits from Brandon Phillips (single), Jay Bruce (double) and Todd Frazier (RBI single). Zack Cozart delivered a sacrifice fly on a line drive to left field. Exemplifying the Reds' good fortune, Ryan Hanigan topped a grounder toward third base for an infield hit. He and Frazier scored on Robinson's big bouncer.

Votto opened the third with another infield hit. After Bruce singled cleanly one out later, Frazier launched a drive over the left-field barrier for his 10th homer.

Kickham, who acknowledged difficulties with hitting his spots, kept busy during the rain delay by seeking advice rrom teammates, including right-hander Matt Cain.

"You have to put it behind you," Kickham said, relating some of the wisdom he absorbed. "It's nothing you can dwell on. Just learn from it."

Reds starter Bronson Arroyo maintained the stinginess he displayed in Game 2 of the NLDS, when he permitted San Francisco one hit in seven innings. This time, Arroyo limited San Francisco to two hits in six innings, including Brandon Belt's fifth-inning home run.

Belt also contributed a classic rainout story. While performing in the Double-A Eastern League in 2010, Belt decided to have some fun in a submerged dugout in Bowie, Md.

"The drain got clogged, and [the dugout] filled up with about four feet of water," Belt said. "I was swimming in it and I got in trouble. They were worried about malaria or something. I was fine, though. ... We had some races in there and I dominated everybody." Comments