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Giants top Nationals 3-2, return to NLCS vs Cards

San Francisco right fielder Hunter Pence gets a champagne shower after the Giants eliminated Washington 3-1 in the NLDS. (Associated Press)
San Francisco right fielder Hunter Pence gets a champagne shower after the Giants eliminated Washington 3-1 in the NLDS. (Associated Press)
Janie Mccauley Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Giants are on another October roll in their every-other-year pattern of postseason success.

Joe Panik scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on Aaron Barrett’s bases-loaded wild pitch, and the Giants edged the Washington Nationals 3-2 Tuesday night to return to the N.L. Championship Series.

The wild-card Giants won 3-1 in the best-of-five Division Series by also scoring on a walk and a groundout. Hunter Pence turned in a defensive gem in right field that helped hold the Nationals at bay as San Francisco won for the 11th time in its last 12 postseason games.

“It’s been a remarkable journey. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Pence said.

Santiago Casilla put the potential tying run aboard in the ninth on a two-out walk to Bryce Harper, then retired Wilson Ramos on a grounder to end it. Casilla was mobbed on the mound as fireworks shot off from the center-field scoreboard.

San Francisco travels to St. Louis for Game 1 on Saturday. It’s a rematch of the 2012 NLCS, when the Giants rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cardinals on the way to their second World Series championship in three years.

Harper splashed a tying home run into McCovey Cove in the seventh, but Washington’s season ended with a third straight one-run defeat, including that excruciating 2-1 loss in 18 innings Saturday in Game 2.

The Nationals never got on track offensively, lacking the power that carried them to an N.L. East title and the best record in the league at 96-66.

After his wild pitch snapped a 2-all tie, Barrett got set to intentionally walk Pablo Sandoval. But the right-hander sailed a toss way over the head of Ramos, who quickly retrieved the ball near the backstop. Ramos threw to Barrett covering the plate, where he tagged out a sliding Buster Posey.

The call was upheld after a replay review of 1 minute, 57 seconds, denying San Francisco an insurance run.

“It was just one of those weird plays where they ended up getting me,” Posey said.

Just like a night earlier when Giants ace Madison Bumgarner’s one miscue cost his team the game, Barrett blew it this time.

San Francisco hit consecutive one-out singles against Barrett in the seventh, and then Pence walked to load the bases for Sandoval.

Pence produced the play of the night when he slammed his back into an archway on the right-field wall to rob Jayson Werth of extra bases in the sixth. Fans enjoying the game from the outside portwalk witnessed the catch from just behind Pence and broke into frenzied cheers.

“That catch he made was unreal. It really brought momentum back in our favor,” Posey said.

The very next inning, Pence could only watch as Harper hit a towering drive over the right-field arcade and between two boats among a large group of kayakers in the cove. It was the 104th splash homer at 15-year-old AT&T Park and third in the postseason.

Rick Ankiel did it for the Braves in the 2010 NLDS.

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