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Giants Beat Braves 3-2, Advance to Face Phillies for NL Pennant

The San Francisco Giants came from behind for the second straight game to beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 and advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2002.

San Francisco scored two runs in the seventh inning to erase a 2-1 deficit after Braves starting pitcher Derek Lowe was replaced with the bases loaded and one out. Cody Ross singled in the go-ahead run, one inning after hitting a solo home run for the Giants’ first hit against Lowe.

The Giants’ win at Turner Field in Atlanta came one day after they scored twice in the ninth inning to beat the Braves by the same 3-2 score in Game 3. All four games in the series were decided by one run.

“These games could have gone either way,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said during a news conference. “We were fortunate to come out on top. We know it. It was just a great series.”

The loss marked the final game for Braves manager Bobby Cox, who has said he’ll retire after 26 years with the team. Cox, 69, will remain with the Braves in an advisory role through the 2015 season. Atlanta won 14 division titles and one World Series during Cox’s tenure.

San Francisco won the best-of-five division series 3-1 and will face Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series starting Oct. 16. The Phillies completed a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the league’s other first-round series two days ago.

Three of Major League Baseball’s four championship series spots have been filled. The last will be decided tonight when the Tampa Bay Rays host the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of their American League division series. The winner advances to play the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

Price vs. Lee

The Rays will turn to starting pitcher David Price, while the Rangers counter with Game 1 winner Cliff Lee.

The Rays are seeking to become the second team to win a best-of-five playoff series after losing the first two games at home, joining the 2001 Yankees. The Rangers are the only current major league team that hasn’t won a postseason series.

“We won here; they won at our place,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said yesterday. “We’ve got two of the best pitchers going and when it’s all over, the team that scores the most runs will get it. And I hope it’s us.”

In Atlanta, Lowe allowed only Ross’s homer until the seventh inning, when he was lifted after surrendering two walks and an infield single. The Giants scored the tying run on a grounder, and Ross delivered a two-out single off Braves reliever Jonny Venters.

Bumgarner’s Playoff Debut

Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, making his first playoff start, allowed two runs on six hits in six innings. The 21-year-old lefthander was the youngest Giants pitcher to start in the postseason since Jerome Williams in 2003.

“The way he carried himself is beyond his years,” Bochy said. “He’s 21 years old, but you wouldn’t know it.”

Lowe allowed three runs -- two earned -- on two hits over 6 1/3 innings for Atlanta. His eight strikeouts marked a career postseason high.

After the game ended, Cox emerged from the Atlanta dugout, tipping his cap as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Giants players and coaches, including Bochy, interrupted their on-field celebration to applaud Cox.

“I revere this man so much,” Bochy said. “It’s going to be strange coming in here and not seeing Bobby on the other side. I’m going to miss him.”

Cox’s Teary Farewell

Cox said while he’s disappointed in the result, he’s happy for Bochy, whom he called “one of the best guys in baseball.” Cox then gathered himself before answering a question about what he said to his players in the locker room after the game.

“I told them I was proud of them,” he said as tears filled his eyes. “A grown man shouldn’t do this. It doesn’t feel like this is the last time I’m putting (a uniform) on, but it certainly is. I won’t put it on again.”

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