CINCINNATI — Buster Posey insisted all along — even after San Francisco lost the first two at home — that his team was far from done, no matter how long the odds.
Turns out, he was right. And the NL batting champion had a lot to do with this most Giant comeback.
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.
They’ll play either Washington or St. Louis for the NL pennant starting Sunday.
“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.”
The Giants became only the eighth team to win a five-game playoff series after falling behind 2-0. 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.
With one swing, Posey made it possible.
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.
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 also had a pair of diving catches that preserved the lead in the eighth.
Ryan Ludwick singled home a run in the ninth 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.
Almost as soon as Omar Infante threw out Seth Smith to end the Oakland Athletics surprising season, despair turned to appreciation.
The defeated A’s came out of their dugout to a standing ovation from a towel-waving crowd, soaking in the energy that fueled their run to an improbable division title and basking in one last “Let’s Go Oakland!” chant.
“That was the best part of the whole night,” second baseman Cliff Pennington said. “It went from, ‘Man, the season is over’ and the down of that to being able to walk out there and just see them one last time and kind of soak that in. That lifted you back up a little bit.”
They needed that lift after the way Justin Verlander shut them down for nine brilliant innings.
The A’s struck out 11 times and managed just four hits against last year’s AL Cy Young winner and MVP and were unable to complete an improbable comeback in the AL division series, losing Game 5 to the Detroit Tigers 6-0 on Thursday night.
Oakland overcame losses in the first two games of the best-of-five series and a two-run deficit in the ninth inning of Game 4 to force the decisive game against the Tigers. But Verlander proved to be too tough on this night.