By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - Buster Posey powered the San Francisco Giants to a 6-4 victory and an unlikely series comeback over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday to book a spot in the National League Championship Series for the second time in three seasons.
A scoreless game was blown open when Posey capped a six-run fifth inning for the Giants with a grand slam that ended Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos's outing and silenced the home crowd.
After losing two games at home by a combined 14-2 score, San Francisco roared back with three consecutive road wins, making them the first National League team to win a best-of-five division series after losing the opening two games.
"We've got a bunch of fighters, and I don't think anybody gave up," said Posey. "We were getting worked over offensively pretty well and came out swinging the bats better yesterday and were able to get just enough across today to get it done."
The Reds pulled to within two runs in a nail-biting ninth inning but, with runners on first and second and just one out, Giants closer Sergio Romo got Jay Bruce to fly out before striking out Scott Rolen to end the game.
The Giants now advance to the penultimate stage of Major League Baseball's postseason for the first time since they won the World Series in 2010.
They will play either the St. Louis Cardinals or Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven series, starting on Sunday.
The Reds, who were seeking their first berth in the National League Championship Series in 17 years, rallied with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and one each in the sixth and ninth but will rue several missed opportunities.
Cincinnati had the tying or go-ahead run at the plate in four straight innings from the sixth but were unable to draw even, including in the eighth when Giants outfielder Angel Pagan stole a sure-fire run-scoring hit from Dioner Navarro with a sensational diving catch to end the inning.
"We got that last out and obviously euphoria hits, but I complement the Reds on how hard they fought back in that game and we barely hung on," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
"The torture is back here, I guess, but what happened here, I couldn't be prouder of a bunch of guys."
Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain earned the win after allowing six hits, three runs and striking out five in 5-2/3 innings while Reds counterpart Latos suffered the loss after allowing seven hits and six runs in 4-1/3 innings.
The defeat marked the first time all year the Reds lost three consecutive home games. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden and Mark Lamport-Stokes)