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Giants beat Reds 6-4, win NLDS on Posey's slam

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Giants beat Reds 6-4, win NLDS on Posey's slam

CINCINNATI (AP) 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 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 on Thursday, and San Francisco pulled off an unprecedented revival, moving into the championship series with a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

``You don't want to be in a lose-and-you're-out scenario,'' reliever Jeremy Affeldt said, wearing a brace on his left wrist so he didn't hurt it in the champagne-flavored clubhouse celebration. ``We've been in that situation for three days. We're probably going to sleep well tonight.''

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.''

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 Friday night when the Cards and Nats play Game 5.

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.

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.

For the first time in the series, the Giants could exhale.

``I don't think anybody gave up,'' Posey said.

Will Clark, in the 1989 NLCS, and Chuck Hiller, in the 1962 World Series, hit the other Giants slams in the postseason.

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 had a pair of diving catches that preserved the lead in the eighth.

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.

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.

In Cincinnati, the home-field meltdown had a sickeningly familiar feeling. The Reds haven't won a home playoff game in 17 years. After taking the first two on the West Coast, all they needed was one more at home, where they hadn't dropped three straight all season.

``You get tired of the disappointments, but then you get over it,'' manager Dusty Baker said. ``It hurts big-time.''

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.

``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.''

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.

They really had to scramble this season to get another shot at it.

The bullpen took a huge hit when closer Brian Wilson blew out his elbow, and that was just the start. All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera got a 50-game suspension in August after a positive testosterone test, taking a .346 hitter out of their lineup. The Giants have decided not to bring him back, even though he's eligible to return for the NL championship series.

Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched so poorly - 15 losses - that he got relegated to the bullpen for the division series.

And 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 Reds won't forget the first inning of the series, when everything changed. Ace Johnny Cueto pulled muscles in his right side and had to leave the game. He wound up getting dropped from the playoff roster because of the injury.

Latos pulled them through that opening game, pitching in relief on short rest for a 5-2 win. Latos came to Cincinnati from the Padres at a high price - pitcher Edinson Volquez and three former high draft picks - and with a clear purpose in the offseason. He was expected to take them to the next level.

The right-hander allowed three hits through the first four innings, then fell apart in the fifth. Crawford had an RBI triple and scored on rookie shortstop Zack Cozart's error. A four-pitch walk and a single loaded the bases for Posey.

As soon as he connected, Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan stood and turned away, unable to watch the ball head for the seats.

Cincinnati's 17-year history of playoff futility was about to go on.

NOTES: Posey's other career grand slam came on July 7, 2010 at Milwaukee. ... The Reds are 3-3 in winner-take-all playoff games, including 1-2 in best-of-five series and 2-1 in best-of-seven series. .. Teams that lose the first two games in a best-of-five series are 7-59 all-time. ... Cain gave up six hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings, the longest appearance by a Giants starter during the series.

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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