for this game

Giants top Nats, to face Cards in NLCS

Oct 8, 2014 - 6:04 AM San Francisco, CA ( - The San Francisco Giants are headed to the National League Championship Series for the third time in five years.

The team with a knack for winning elimination games got it done this time with room to spare.

The Giants scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning and beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 in Game 4 of their NL Division Series on Tuesday night.

Their winning rally came after Bryce Harper tied the game for the Nationals in the top of the seventh with his third home run of the series.

"They were determined not to get back on a plane and go to Washington," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of his team. "We couldn't quite put the game away but we kept fighting and when they tied the game we put pressure right back on them."

The Giants will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS for the second time in three years beginning with Game 1 on Saturday in St. Louis.

The NL Central-champion Cardinals clinched their fourth straight NLCS berth earlier Tuesday with a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4.

Including their World Series title runs in 2010 and 2012, the Giants have won seven straight postseason series. They finished second to the Dodgers in the NL West and had to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road in the NL wild-card game last week to make the NLDS, their seventh straight win-or-go-home victory under Bochy.

In a close game Tuesday, Giants right fielder Hunter Pence made one of the biggest plays when he crashed into the right-field wall to rob Jayson Werth of a hit in the sixth inning on what was starter Ryan Vogelsong's last pitch.

Pence's back hit the fence as he reached out to grab the ball in front of the padding.

"I can't tell you want I said," Vogelsong explained, "because you'll have to bleep out half of it. But that's what he's supposed to do. He makes a great catch every time I pitch in the postseason, so I knew it had to show up at some point. And thank goodness it did, because that's probably a triple."

Indeed, the San Francisco clung to a 2-1 lead until Harper homered off Hunter Strickland (1-0) for the second time in the series, driving the right-handed reliever's 97 mph fastball into the water of McCovey Cove on the fly to tie the score in the seventh.

But Matt Thornton (0-1) gave up consecutive one-out singles to Joe Panik and Buster Posey in the bottom of the seventh and Aaron Barrett walked Pence to load the bases.

The Giants took the lead when Barrett uncorked a wild pitch that bounced in the dirt and past catcher Wilson Ramos.

It wasn't even Barrett's wildest pitch.

That came when he overthrew Ramos on an intentional ball four to Pablo Sandoval. Posey raced home but was tagged out on Ramos' throw back to Barrett.

The Giants challenged the close play -- Posey, of course, is the namesake of MLB's so-called Posey Rule barring players from blocking the plate -- but it was upheld. Rafael Soriano came in to get Brandon Belt on a fly ball to end the inning with runners at the corners.

Santiago Casilla walked Harper with two outs in the ninth, but Ramos grounded out to end the game and the series.

Nine days shy of his birthday, Harper joined Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones and Miguel Cabrera as the only players to hit four postseason home runs before the age of 22.

Harper seemed unsure the ball would be fair, standing near the plate to watch the blast before starting for first base, where he rounded the bag with his finger pointed in the air.

Washington won the NL East with the National League's best record but managed only one win in the series, Monday's 4-1 victory in San Francisco, which came after a heartbreaking 18-inning loss in Game 2 at home.

"We established a way to go about this game in spring training and we accomplished that goal. We played the way we wanted to play," said Nationals manager Matt Williams.

"It's tender and bitter and all of those things, but I'm proud of them. I'm proud of how they went about it."

Washington starter Gio Gonzalez went four innings, giving up two unearned runs in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk and Panik's RBI groundout. The rally included a perfectly placed bunt from Vogelsong that was supposed to be a sacrifice but ended up as a single.

Vogelsong retired 10 batters in a row between Werth's two-out walk in the first inning and Ian Desmond's first-pitch single in the fifth. Desmond scored Washington's first run on Harper's double inside the left-field line.

The right-hander pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

Game Notes

The Giants beat the Cardinals in the 2012 NLCS ... Casilla earned his second save this postseason ... Sandoval was 0-for-3, snapping his team-record hitting streak at 14 postseason games. It fell one game shy of Marquis Grissom's NL record set with Atlanta from 1995-96.