CINCINNATI – Buster Posey’s fifth-inning grand slam off Mat Latos was the decisive blow as the San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to the National League Championship Series with a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 of the division series at Great American Ball Park on Thursday.
Cincinnati had won the first two games of the best-of-five division series at AT&T Park before the Giants roared back to tie the series with victories in Games 3 and 4 in Cincinnati. Now Bruce Bochy’s club awaits either the Cardinals or Nationals in the NLCS with a trip to the World Series at stake.
Starting pitchers Matt Cain and Latos cruised through the early innings in Game 5. Latos retired 10 straight following Pablo Sandoval’s first-inning single. Cain allowed just two hits in four innings with help from Gregor Blanco, who made a diving grab of Zack Cozart’s liner to end the third.
But Latos, who had gone 2-0 with an 0.56 ERA in two regular-season starts against the Giants and pitched four strong innings against the Giants in Game 1, got roughed up in the fifth.
Brandon Crawford drove home the game’s first run with a RBI triple, which scored Blanco from first, putting the Giants ahead 1-0 in the fifth. Crawford scored from third when Cozart bobbled Angel Pagan’s bouncer over the mound making the score 2-0.
Two batters later, Posey launched a grand slam into the left-field bleachers on a 2-2 pitch from Latos, giving the Giants a commanding six-run lead.
Cincinnati wasn’t done, though. Brandon Phillips doubled home two runs in the fifth. And Ryan Ludwick hit his third home run in the division series leading off the sixth to make the score 6-3.
The Giants’ defense came through again in the eighth when Ryan Hanigan was robbed of a hit on Crawford’s diving catch, and Pagan prevented two runs from scoring with his sliding grab of pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro’s sinking liner.
The Reds had one last chance. Cozart walked and Joey Votto singled with one out in the ninth against Sergio Romo. Ludwick delivered a RBI single to make the score 6-4.
With runners on first and second, Jay Bruce battled Romo in a 13-pitch at-bat before flying out to left. Romo then struck out Scott Rolen to end it.
NOTES: San Francisco became the first NL team since the division series was introduced in 1995 to come back from an 0-2 deficit to win, and the first team in either league to win three straight games on the road to win a five-game postseason series. … The Giants move on to the league championship series for the sixth time in franchise history, first since winning the 2010 World Series. … Prior to Thursday’s game, Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked about home-field advantage, which hadn’t mattered much for teams in the division series, including his own. “It really hasn’t come into play,” said Baker. “Look at us, we go out there and win two games and they come here and win two games. The better pitched game you get, the better chance you have to win.” … Rolen, whose fielding error allowed the eventual winning run to score in the 10th inning of Game 3, was back in the starting lineup Thursday. Todd Frazier started at third in Game 4.