Barry Zito and the Giants gave themself at least one more game in the NL championship series with a 5-0 victory Friday in St. Louis that forced Sunday's Game 6 back at AT&T Park.
Just where the NL West winners want to be with their season on the line - in front of the raucous, orange towel-waving sellout crowd."It's great to be back in San Francisco. There is no tomorrow," Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said. "It's a unique feeling. It has brought the best out of us."
The wild-card Cardinals traveled out West again for a trip they certainly hoped they wouldn't have to make. Defending champion St. Louis leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, needing one more win for a World Series return.
St. Louis knows how hard winning the last one can be considering what this Giants team already did during these playoffs: winning three straight on the road at Cincinnati in the division series after falling behind 2-0."They've been doing this all year. Obviously, the Cincinnati series, here come the Giants," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said. "It's good for TV but it's disappointing in (our) sense."
While the Cardinals took a day to rest - Carpenter and a couple of pitchers did play some catch - Pence and most of his team showed up at the ballpark in late afternoon to hit and work out even though manager Bruce Bochy gave his players the day off.
With Vogelsong on the mound, the Giants have to like their chances to push the series to a Game 7.
Vogelsong became the first Giants starter to make it through six innings this postseason when he went seven strong innings in a 7-1 Game 2 victory. He allowed four hits and one run for his first career postseason win."We all kind of feel like we've been in this situation before with Cincinnati," Vogelsong said. "And it's not over until the last out. I think both teams that are playing right now have proved that in the first round."
Giants general manager Brian Sabean wasn't surprised to see his team on the field Saturday for an optional practice - realizing full well players didn't want to risk losing any momentum from the night before."Sometimes you wonder how much at this stage that there is a home-field advantage," Sabean said. "In some cases, because of the bullpens, it's probably as much as whoever gets the lead and can hold off the other ballclub from scoring will win the ballgame. We know what's at stake. We know that they're going to put a game against us. I'm sure Vogey will be ready."
St. Louis postseason ace Carpenter was looking forward to another chance, too.
He has been plenty reliable this time of year for the Cardinals, with his 10 postseason victories the most in franchise history. His stuff never felt right the last time out against the Giants, when he allowed two earned runs, five in all, and six hits in four innings."It doesn't matter if you're on the road, what game it is, it's the first one to win four games, and hopefully we can do that tomorrow," Carpenter said.
The 37-year-old Carpenter pitched two clinchers last October and went 4-0. He won the division series clincher and did it again in Game 7 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers .
So, why not add that NLCS distinction to his impressive October resume?
It's already been a memorable month for Carpenter, who came back to make three starts - throwing just 17 innings - late in the regular season after a complicated operation that removed a rib and two neck muscles to relieve numbness on his right side.
He is counting on commanding his fastball better this time out. His postseason ERA in two outings this year is 1.86."The last time out my stuff went backwards a little bit," Carpenter said. "I was trying everything I could to get outs but unfortunately it didn't work. I had some nice work in between that start and this start, I feel good and I'm looking forward to getting back out there."
The Giants returned to the Bay Area as soon as they could to get ready for Game 6, flying home overnight and landing at 2:30 a.m. But the Cardinals still had to go home after Friday night's game and pack their bags. They slept in their own beds and took off from St. Louis at midday Central time.
San Francisco, which made an improbable run to the 2010 World Series title, hopes to send St. Louis out of town empty-handed. The Giants won the NLCS in five games at their waterfront ballpark against the Cardinals in 2002 before falling short in a seven-game Series to the wild-card Angels.
Not that Bochy or Cardinals manager Mike Matheny can even think that far in advance, just yet."I don't necessarily see them as pesky as much as just talented," Matheny said of the Giants. "And the same kind of makeup that we have, they aren't going to go away and neither are we. And we knew that going into this thing. As soon as we won a couple of games at home there was nobody in there for a second under the belief that this was going to be a team that was going to just roll over. So we know that this team has the ability to do what they did, once again, in Cincinnati, running in there and doing something that hasn't been done all season. ... It's just a matter of execution, and they executed better than us yesterday."
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|October 17, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left knee|
|October 08, 2012||Jaime Garcia||Day-to-Day||Left rotator strain and inflammation|
|September 28, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|September 28, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - left elbow contusion|
|September 23, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Lower back spasms|
|September 09, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Swollen left ankle|
|San Francisco Giants|
|September 06, 2012||Xavier Nady||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|August 27, 2012||Clay Hensley||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|August 27, 2012||Clay Hensley||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|August 23, 2012||Justin Christian||15-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|August 23, 2012||Justin Christian||15-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|August 22, 2012||Buster Posey||Day-to-Day||Hamstring tightness|
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Ryan Vogelsong and these San Francisco Giants sure have become adept at saving their season.
Now, they need to do it once more against the comeback champs.
Vogelsong struck out a career-best nine in another postseason gem and on his biggest stage yet, and San Francisco staved off elimination for the second straight game, pushing St. Louis to a winner-take-all Game 7 in the NL championship series with a 6-1 victory Sunday night.
"There are two teams in the same boat right now. You'll see two teams go out and give it everything they've got," Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "This is what we play all year for and we'll put it all on the line. This is Game 7. There's only one better Game 7. They are no more what-if scenarios."
Turns out the defending champion Cardinals aren't the only team tough to put away in October.
Marco Scutaro delivered a two-run double and Buster Posey drove in his first run of the series with a groundout in the first inning as San Francisco struck early to support Vogelsong.
San Francisco's Matt Cain and St. Louis' Kyle Lohse are set to pitch in a rematch of Game 3, won by the Cardinals. There's a forecast of rain in the Bay Area during the day.
"It's time to get it done," Lohse said.
These wild-card Cardinals sure seem to like the all-or-nothing route in October, while San Francisco thrives playing from behind.
"Clutch performances are just guys playing normally in big spots. You can't be petrified by the situation, and neither of these teams have been," St. Louis' Lance Berkman said. "One of the things that makes Game 7's so interesting is that I don't think either of these teams is going to choke it away."
Five games with their year on the line, five wins for these gutsy Giants this postseason. Now, it comes down to one game for the past two World Series champions to return, with the Detroit Tigers waiting.
Pitching to chants of "Vogey! Vogey!" from the sellout crowd of 43,070 at AT&T Park, the right-hander didn't allow a hit until Daniel Descalso 's broken-bat single to center with two outs in the fifth. Vogelsong struck out the side in the first and had already fanned five through two innings.
"This place is going to be loud, I can tell you that," Vogelsong said of Monday night.
Scutaro had no chance for a collision with Matt Holliday this time. In their first game back at AT&T Park since Holliday took out the second baseman with a hard slide in Game 2, Holliday was scratched about an hour before first pitch because of tightness in his lower back, and Allen Craig replaced him in left field.
It hardly mattered the way Vogelsong pitched.
The Cardinals managed their only run on Craig's two-out single in the sixth. St. Louis had gone 15 innings without scoring after left-hander Barry Zito won 5-0 on Friday in Game 5.
"I just tried to do really the same thing he did, come out and set the tone early for us," Vogelsong said.
Vogelsong had his second stellar seven-inning outing against the Cardinals in a week, allowing four hits and one run. He walked one in a 102-pitch performance and lowered his postseason ERA - all this year - to 1.42.
The 35-year-old Vogelsong toiled through the minors, Japan and even winter ball to finally pitch under the October spotlight for a chance at the World Series. His latest impressive outing put the Giants one win away.
"I just believe that it's my time," Vogelsong said.
After taking a 3-1 lead back home at Busch Stadium, Mike Matheny 's Cardinals will have to find some offense in a hurry if they want to get back to the World Series.
"We've got to make some adjustments but our team's done that all season," Matheny said. "One thing I know is these guys take these to heart."
These Cards might just prefer close calls. Just like last year.
They won the NL's second wild card on the second-to-last day of the regular season, then won at Atlanta to reach the division series. The Cardinals rallied from a 6-0 deficit with a four-run ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals 9-7 in Game 5 of the division series.
The Giants got to St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter again. The Cardinals winningest postseason pitcher with 10 victories looked out of sync for the second straight start - and he left with a nearly identical line as in his 7-1 Game 2 loss here last Monday, down to the hits, earned runs, unearned runs and innings.
Carpenter was done in by one big inning this time, too. He allowed six hits and five runs, two earned, in four innings.
"The bottom line is I'm not giving my team a chance to win," Carpenter said. "You go out with a 5-0 lead after two innings, it's not giving your team a chance."
Vogelsong reached on shortstop Pete Kozma 's fielding error in the second, scoring Brandon Belt after he led off the inning with a triple. Scutaro came up two batters later and doubled home two more runs.
The 10 unearned runs allowed by the Cardinals are the most in an NLCS, according to STATS LLC - topping the nine given up by the Braves in 2001 and Dodgers in 1985.
San Francisco never faced an elimination game in 2010 on the way to winning the World Series, but has had to go the distance in each of its first two postseason series this year. They became the first team in major league history to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five series by winning three straight on the road as they did at Cincinnati.
"We're enjoying this moment. We know how to handle this situation," San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval said.
They have Vogelsong along for this year's run.
"He was on top of his game again," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's probably been as consistent as any starter this year."
The Giants put pressure on Carpenter right away.
Scutaro drew a one-out walk and Sandoval doubled off the wall in center on a ball that eluded Jon Jay . Posey followed with a groundout to third to score Scutaro for a 1-0 lead.
Scutaro is batting .458 (11 for 24) during the NLCS.
"I don't really know, man," Scutaro said when asked to explain it. "Just excited to come to the field every day. ... Being in this opportunity, just being in the playoffs, is amazing."
While the Giants have won five straight games facing elimination this postseason, the Cardinals have won their last six dating to last year. This is the first time the NLCS has gone seven games since 2006, when St. Louis beat the New York Mets 3-1 at Shea Stadium. Carlos Beltran , now with the Cardinals, struck out looking when Adam Wainwright froze him on a curveball.
"This night, this moment belongs to every player in here and every fan in the stands," San Francisco right fielder Hunter Pence said. "There's still another story to be told, and we'll just have to wait and see if we're going to enjoy it."
NOTES: Matheny said he wasn't sure whether Holliday would be available Monday. "Wait and see, we'll see tomorrow," he said. ... Giants 1B coach Roberto Kelly worked his first home game of the series after sustaining a concussion during the initial workout day Oct. 13 before the NLCS began. He gave a thumbs-up before running out to the field during pregame warmups. ... San Francisco is 5-1 when scoring first this postseason. ... The most unearned runs allowed in any LCS is 13, by the Angels in 1986 against the Red Sox. ... The Cardinals didn't get a leadoff man aboard all game.