Lee County's own Buster Posey, left, celebrates with San Francisco Giants teammate Brandon Belt after Posey roped a grand slam into the seats at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on Thursday in Game 5 of the NLDS. It was Posey's second career grand slam.
CINCINNATI — 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 Leesburg native and 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 Thursday, and San Francisco pulled off an unprecedented revival, moving into the championship series with a 6-4 victory against the Cincinnati Reds.
“I don’t think anybody gave up,” Posey said.
And everyone took notice — even the Reds.
“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.”
Posey said he’s never heard Great American Ball Park that quiet as he did following his home run.
“It was a weird feeling because I don’t think I’ve heard a place get that quiet,” Posey told the Sillicon Valley (Calif.) Mercury News outside the cavorting Giants’ clubhouse. “So it’s kind of weird running around the bases and you didn’t really hear a sound.”
Posey said he knew it hit it well — he just didn’t know how well until he looked up.
“I was just fortunate to get a good pitch to hit,” Posey said the newspaper, “and got the barrel on it and left the park.”
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.”
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.
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 tonight when the Cards and Nats play Game 5.
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.
Will Clark, in the 1989 NLCS, and Chuck Hiller, in the 1962 World Series, hit the other Giants slams in the postseason.
Posey’s other career grand slam came on July 7, 2010 at Milwaukee.
But after this one, it set up a wild moment among the Giants in the dugout.
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.
For the first time in the series, the Giants could exhale.
Matt Cain and the bullpen held on, with more help from Posey. The All-Star catcher and 2010 NL Rookie of the Year 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.
Cain only wanted to talk about Posey’s contributions after the win.
“He’s just an unspoken leader,” Cain said. “He did a great job of putting an easy swing on a big pressure situation and he got the job done.”
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.
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.
“You get tired of the disappointments, but then you get over it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It hurts big-time.”
Speaking of hurt, 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 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.
Posey said this run to the title feels different than 2010’s.
“I think it definitely had a different feel to it,” Posey said. “I mean, (both were) quite an accomplishment.
“To lose those first two games at home (this season) and then come here, where these guys have played great all year, and win three in a row… So there was a lot of emotion.”
I think every year is different. You’ve got different guys on the team. You’re not going to be able to duplicate 2010. We have to make our own identity with this team. This was definitely a good start.”