SAN FRANCISCO — John Smiley had gone so long without any success, he began wondering if his time had finally come.
"I was actually thinking this might be the end of my career," he said.
Smiley carried a 1-5 record and 8.19 earned-run average into Saturday's game against the Giants before pitching seven shutout innings to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-1 win over San Francisco.
"I kept telling myself it's going to get better and better, and it just kept getting worse and worse," said Smiley, who had given up at least six runs in each of his previous four starts. said. "So I just told myself, 'I don't care if I get my butt kicked all year. I'm going to keep going out there.' "
Cincinnati Manager Ray Knight said Smiley's performance was "a personal step forward. He'd really lost some confidence in himself."
If ever there was a time for Smiley to find his groove, it would come against the Giants, smack dab in the middle of a hitting funk.
"We're not advancing runners over and when we do get runners to third, we're not driving them in," San Francisco Manager Dusty Baker said. "We've got to go back to practicing what we did when we came out of spring training."
After starting the season 13-3, the Giants are 4-7.
"Nothing lasts forever," Baker said. "You're going to be hot and cold. Now this will show what we're made of."
Knight said pretty much the same thing about his ballclub, winners of two consecutive games after losing nine of 10.
"We were looking at a long trip to the West Coast, and looking like it could get a whole lot worse," Knight said. "But sometimes the toughest challenges are the ones that get you going."
The Reds scored two unearned runs in the ninth set up by pitcher Julian Tavarez's throwing error. Deion Sanders hit a run-scoring ground-rule double and Hal Morris delivered a sacrifice fly.
Jeff Shaw pitched the eighth and Jeff Brantley worked the ninth, allowing a leadoff homer to Mark Lewis, his third, before getting his first save.