When Hunter Pence hangs up the cleats and batting gloves, he should become a motivational speaker.
The Giants needed something to spark them as they tried to do the unthinkable: Go into Cincinnati and win three straight games.
Pence’s words, apparently, did the trick. Matt Cain redeemed himself and MVP candidate Buster Posey announced his presence with a fifth inning grand slam as the Giants defeated the Reds 6-4 to advance to the National League Championship Series.
After a lousy performance with no run support in Game 1, Cain pitched well enough Thursday, and the Giants gave him more than enough runs to work with. The Giants exploded for six runs in the fifth inning, capped off by Posey’s towering grand slam.
The scoring started in the fifth with a Gregor Blanco single. Brandon Crawford came up and found the perfect time for his first hit of the series, cutting the tension with a triple that allowed Blanco to score standing up.
After Cain grounded out to the pitcher, Angel Pagan hit a ball right at shortstop Zach Cozart, but the infielder fumbled the ball allowing Crawford to score and Pagan to reach safely.
Posey’s blast followed a Marco Scutaro walk and Pablo Sandoval single.
Cain gave two runs back in the bottom of the fifth and gave up a Ryan Ludwick home run in the sixth, bringing the Reds within striking distance.
For all Giants fans, the rest of the game was a tense, stressful affair.
The unsung heroes of this comeback have to be the bullpen. While there were anxious moments, George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla held the Reds scoreless for two innings and managed to hand a 6-3 lead to Sergio Romo in the bottom of the eighth inning.
In three wins in Cincinnati, the Giants’ bullpen was nearly untouchable, allowing just two earned runs in 14-2/3 innings. That’s a collective 1.22 ERA. In those high-stress moments, the Giants relievers came up huge.
They don’t award an MVP for the NLDS, but if I had a vote, I’d give it to entire bullpen.
It was a historic comeback as the Giants are the first National League team to come back from 0-2 down in the Wild Card era.
The Giants now await the winner of the Washington-St. Louis series. If the Cardinals win, the Giants will host Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday. If the Nationals come back and win the series, Game 1 will be in D.C. on Sunday, with the Giants’ first home game on Wednesday night.