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10/11/2012 10:02 PM EDT
Giants beat Reds 6-4, win NLDS on Posey's slam
SAN FRANCISCO 6, CINCINNATI 4

By JOE KAY
AP Baseball Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Not just any comeback would get San Francisco
back to playing for a pennant. It would take one of Giant
proportions.



And Buster Posey believed it could happen. Even after the Giants
left the West Coast down two games, the National League batting
champion insisted his team could pull it off, despite the long
odds.



With one swing, he got everyone else believing it, too.



Posey hit the third grand slam in Giants' postseason history on
Thursday, and San Francisco pulled off an unprecedented revival,
moving into the championship series with a 6-4 victory over the
Cincinnati Reds.



"You don't want to be in a lose-and-you're-out scenario,"
reliever Jeremy Affeldt said, wearing a brace on his left wrist
so he didn't hurt it in the champagne-flavored clubhouse
celebration. "We've been in that situation for three days. We're
probably going to sleep well tonight."



They'll play either Washington or St. Louis for the NL pennant,
Sunday, not caring at all who they face.



"We could go up against anybody at any time," shortstop Brandon
Crawford said. "Being down 2-0 and coming back and winning three
at their place, it's an unbelievable feeling."



Game 1 of the NL championship series will be Sunday, either in
Washington against the Nationals or in San Francisco vs. the
Cardinals. In the meantime, the Giants will stay in Cincinnati
until their next opponent is determined Friday night when the
Cards and Nats play Game 5.



The Giants became the first NL team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in
the division series, which began in 1995. Major League
Baseball's changed playoff format this season allowed them to
become the first to take a best-of-five by winning the last
three on the road.



Posey's second career grand slam off Mat Latos put the Giants up
6-0 in the fifth and sparked a joyous scrum in the San Francisco
dugout. The ball smacked off the front of the upper deck in left
field, just above Latos' name on the video board.



For the first time in the series, the Giants could exhale.



"I don't think anybody gave up," Posey said.



Will Clark, in the 1989 NLCS, and Chuck Hiller, in the 1962
World Series, hit the other Giants slams in the postseason.



Matt Cain and the bullpen held on, with more help from Posey.
The All-Star catcher threw out Jay Bruce at third base to snuff
out a sixth-inning rally that cut it to 6-3. The Giants had a
pair of diving catches that preserved the lead in the eighth.



There was more drama in the ninth. Ryan Ludwick singled home a
run off Sergio Romo. With two runners aboard, Romo fanned Scott
Rolen to end it.



The Giants raised their arms, hugged and huddled by the side of
the mound, bouncing in unison.



"It was a spectacular moment," outfielder Hunter Pence said.



In Cincinnati, the home-field meltdown had a sickeningly
familiar feeling. The Reds haven't won a home playoff game in 17
years. After taking the first two on the West Coast, all they
needed was one more at home, where they hadn't dropped three
straight all season.



"You get tired of the disappointments, but then you get over
it," manager Dusty Baker said. "It hurts big-time."



Once Posey connected, the Reds were the ones facing a steep
comeback. They've never overcome a six-run deficit in the
playoffs, according to STATS LLC.



Couldn't do it this time, either.



"Buster Posey's swing was a series-changer," said Reds star Joey
Votto, standing on second base when the game ended. "That made
it very difficult to come back. You know they're going to throw
the kitchen sink at us."



The Giants never trailed in any of their three postseason series
when they won it all in 2010. They beat the Braves 3-1 in the
division series, knocked out the Phillies 4-2 for the NL title,
then took four of five from Texas for their sixth World Series
title and their first since they moved from New York to San
Francisco in 1958.



They really had to scramble this season to get another shot at
it.



The bullpen took a huge hit when closer Brian Wilson blew out
his elbow, and that was just the start. All-Star game MVP Melky
Cabrera got a 50-game suspension in August after a positive
testosterone test, taking a .346 hitter out of their lineup. The
Giants have decided not to bring him back, even though he's
eligible to return for the NL championship series.



Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched so poorly - 15
losses - that he got relegated to the bullpen for the division
series.



And don't forget that Posey was coming off a broken leg that
wiped out most of his 2011 season, making a great comeback of
his own.



"Unreal," Romo said, with champagne dripping off his scraggly
beard. "That guy's definitely the MVP of our team. We believe
he's the MVP of the league. We wouldn't be here without him,
that's for dang sure. He's the one that's been the face of the
team all season long. What a great story with all he's been
through last year."



The Reds won't forget the first inning of the series, when
everything changed. Ace Johnny Cueto pulled muscles in his right
side and had to leave the game. He wound up getting dropped from
the playoff roster because of the injury.



Latos pulled them through that opening game, pitching in relief
on short rest for a 5-2 win. Latos came to Cincinnati from the
Padres at a high price - pitcher Edinson Volquez and three
former high draft picks - and with a clear purpose in the
offseason. He was expected to take them to the next level.



The right-hander allowed three hits through the first four
innings, then fell apart in the fifth. Crawford had an RBI
triple and scored on rookie shortstop Zack Cozart's error. A
four-pitch walk and a single loaded the bases for Posey.



As soon as he connected, Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan stood and
turned away, unable to watch the ball head for the seats.



Cincinnati's 17-year history of playoff futility was about to go
on.



NOTES: Posey's other career grand slam came on July 7, 2010 at
Milwaukee. ... The Reds are 3-3 in winner-take-all playoff
games, including 1-2 in best-of-five series and 2-1 in
best-of-seven series. .. Teams that lose the first two games in
a best-of-five series are 7-59 all-time. ... Cain gave up six
hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings, the longest appearance by
a Giants starter during the series.



---



Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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