Once again, the Giants played with their backs against the wall. Once again, they lived to play another day.
San Francisco rallied behind seven solid innings from Ryan Vogelsong and another offensive show from Marco Scutaro to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 on Sunday at AT&T Park and push the NL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 today.
The Giants have now won five consecutive elimination games this postseason, as the team’s fighting spirit has come through again and again over the past two weeks.
“I don’t think any of us wants the alternative,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said.
Vogelsong set a career high with nine strikeouts as he allowed one run on four hits over seven innings, a tone he set early when he struck out five of the first seven batters he faced. He didn’t give up a hit until Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso blooped one into center field in the fifth inning.
Posey said Vogelsong’s fastball was the key Sunday, and once he figured out that was working, he kept it coming at the Cardinals’ hitters.
“I threw what Buster was putting down,” Vogelsong said. “I assume he saw something that he kept putting the fastball down.”
He admitted the early runs put up by his teammates allowed him to be more aggressive, as Scutaro came through with another multihit game, scoring twice and driving in two runs on a second-inning double.
Once again, the Giants were helped by miscues in the field by the Cardinals, who committed their fourth error of the series when shortstop Pete Kozma bobbled a ground ball off the bat of Vogelsong, allowing Brandon Belt to score and setting the table for Scutaro’s double. The Cardinals have allowed 10 unearned runs in the series, all in games won by the Giants.
San Francisco also proved once again that this team doesn’t need to hit home runs to win.
“Home runs are nice, believe me,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ll take them if we can get them. But that’s not our strength. We know it. So it’s important that we do the small things to help win a ballgame.”
Now both teams look ahead to the scenario all kids dream about while playing in their backyard: Game 7, with a trip to the World Series on the line.
On the mound will be a pair of aces in Matt Cain for the Giants and Kyle Lohse for the Cardinals. Lohse got the best of Cain in Game 3 of the series, a 3-1 Cardinals win in St. Louis, but Cain has been a different pitcher at home all season, posting a 2.03 ERA at home compared to 3.56 on the road.
Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said the pressure won’t be unfamiliar territory to this club.
“The same thing that games 5, 6 and 7 have meant to us,” he said. “We lose and go home. Now we have two teams in the same boat. It’s going to be an intense game and you’re going to see two teams go out there and give it everything they’ve got.”