The San Francisco Giants have made a habit of winning elimination games this year, but that's a situation the St. Louis Cardinals excel in as well.
The Giants are 5-0 while facing elimination this postseason and once again will have Matt Cain on the mound in a decisive contest Monday night when they host the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NL championship series.
San Francisco rallied to win its division series over Cincinnati after losing the first two games at home. The Giants trailed 3-1 in this series against the defending World Series champions before winning 5-0 in Game 5 on the road Friday and 6-1 in Sunday's Game 6.
The 2010 World Series champions seemingly have all the momentum now.
"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."
The Cardinals went 4-0 in elimination games in last year's postseason and are 2-0 in such contests in 2012. To keep that trend going, they'll have to revive an offense that has totaled 12 hits and 19 strikeouts in the club's back-to-back defeats.
"We've got to make some adjustments but our team's done that all season," manager Mike Matheny said. "One thing I know is these guys take these to heart."
Cain (1-2, 4.67 ERA) will try to duplicate what he did in the previous round, when he bounced back from losing his first outing to capture his second one. He yielded three runs over 5 2-3 innings to earn a 6-4 victory over the Reds in Game 5.
"For some reason it seems like I wouldn't say we like it, but it seems like guys are playing really well when we get in this situation," Cain said. "Guys are just kind of letting it all hang out and it seems to be working out really well."
The right-hander gave up three runs over 6 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 3-1 loss at St. Louis in Game 3. Including that outing, he's 1-2 with a 5.89 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this year.
Cain will again face fellow 16-game winner Kyle Lohse (2-0, 1.96), who allowed only one run despite yielding seven hits and five walks over 5 2-3 innings Wednesday.
Lohse has been much better in the postseason than he was last year when he went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA in three starts. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA in four career starts at San Francisco.
There's a forecast of rain in the Bay Area during the day, but Lohse isn't surprised by that.
"It's kind of a joke in the clubhouse. About 60 percent of my games have rain in the forecast," Lohse said. "I know these guys, I've seen them for six games. I know what I need to do. ... It's time to get it done."
Lohse will try to successfully follow up what Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong have done to St. Louis the last two games. Zito pitched 7 2-3 innings in Game 5 and Vogelsong struck out nine over seven innings Sunday.
Marco Scutaro went 2 for 3 with two RBIs in Game 6. Scutaro has hit safely in nine straight playoff games and 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."
St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday will be available after he was scratched from the lineup just before Game 6 because of lower back tightness.
"They've been working on him nonstop," Matheny said. "He feels much better and we're confident that he's not just going to be out there, but be able to be productive."
The Giants have lost all three Game 7s in their history since moving to San Francisco, falling to Anaheim in the 2002 World Series, the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS and the Yankees in the 1962 World Series.
The Cardinals have captured their last three Game 7s since losing to Atlanta in the 1996 NLCS. That's the only other time St. Louis led 3-1 in the NLCS.
The winner will host AL champion Detroit in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
|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) -- After all the Giants had overcome to get back to the World Series, a late shower wasn't about to dampen their celebration.
All right, it was a driving downpour.
So reliever Sergio Romo danced through the raindrops, Tim Lincecum helped lead a soaked victory lap around the ballpark and Angel Pagan stayed on the field with his daughter long after his teammates took the party indoors.
Hunter Pence got the Giants going with a weird double, Matt Cain pitched his second clincher of October and San Francisco closed out Game 7 of the NL championship series in a rainstorm, routing the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 on Monday night.
"The rain never felt so good," series MVP Marco Scutaro said. "We're going to the World Series, this is unbelievable."
San Francisco won its record-tying sixth elimination game of the postseason, completing a lopsided rally from a 3-1 deficit.
The Giants, who won it all in 2010, will host reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander , Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Verlander is set to pitch Wednesday's opener at AT&T Park. Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted before Monday's game he had not planned any further in advance.
Scutaro produced his sixth multihit game of the series and matched an LCS record with 14 hits and Pablo Sandoval drove in a run for his fifth straight game.
"These guys never quit," Bochy said. "They just kept believing and they got it done."
After falling behind 3-1 in the series at Busch Stadium, the Giants outscored the wild-card Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games behind stellar starting pitching from Barry Zito , Ryan Vogelsong and Cain.
They also benefited from some strange bounces.
On Pence's double that highlighted a five-run third, his bat broke at the label on impact, then the broken barrel hit the ball twice more. That put a rolling, slicing spin on the ball and caused it to change directions - leaving shortstop Pete Kozma little chance to make the play. Kozma broke to his right, figuring that's where the ball would go, but it instead curved to left-center.
"It was going to go in the hole and it ended up going up the middle," Kozma said.
Injured closer Brian Wilson , with that out-of-control bushy black beard, danced in the dugout and fans in the sellout crowd of 43,056 kept twirling their orange rally towels even through rain in the late innings - a downright downpour when Romo retired Matt Holliday on a popup to Scutaro to end it.
Romo embraced catcher Buster Posey as fireworks went off over McCovey Cove beyond right field.
"It's just very fitting the way everything has gone for us this season," Romo said of ending in the rain. "The ups and downs, the injuries, the personal issues, whatever. What a ride for us all. It's very, very fitting that it rained right there."
The NL West champion Giants won their first postseason clincher at home since the 2002 NLCS, also against the Cardinals.
These 2012 Giants have a couple of pretty talented castoffs of their own not so different from that winning combination of 2010 "castoffs and misfits" as Bochy referred to his bunch - with Scutaro right there at the top of the list this time around.
Acquired July 27 from the division rival Colorado Rockies , Scutaro hit .500 (14 for 28) with four RBIs in the NLCS. The 36-year-old journeyman infielder, playing in his second postseason and first since 2006 with Oakland, became the first player in major league history with six multihit games in an LCS.
Now, he's headed to his first World Series.
The Giants have All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera to thank for helping his teammates secure home-field advantage in the postseason - while Cain was the winning pitcher the National League's 8-0 victory in July. Cabrera was suspended 50 games Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test, then wasn't added to the roster by the Giants after his suspension ended.
After rain fell on the Cardinals during batting practice, the skies turned blue and the weather cooperated. Anxious players on both sides hung over the dugout rails as the game began.
Cain joined St. Louis' Chris Carpenter as the only pitchers with victories in two winner-take-all games in the same postseason. Carpenter, who lost Games 2 and 6 in this series, did it last year.
Cain also pitched the Giants' Game 5 division series clincher at Cincinnati, when San Francisco became the first team in major league history to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a five-game series by winning three consecutive road games.
"I think to do it, the guys actually have to believe it can happen," Posey said.
He delivered on an even bigger stage Monday as San Francisco saved its season once again. The Giants won their 20th NL pennant and reached their 19th World Series.
Cain walked off the mound to a standing ovation when Jeremy Affeldt entered with two outs in the sixth. Affeldt then got Daniel Descalso to pop out with two runners on.
Yadier Molina had four hits but got little help from the rest of the Cardinals, who went 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position over their final three games.
"It's about the team that's hot, and we went on a cold streak," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We got to this point by being that team that was hot and taking advantage of opportunities. But we just couldn't make it happen these last two games."
Cain added an RBI single to his cause and got some sparkling defense behind him.
The play of the game went to shortstop Brandon Crawford , who made a leaping catch of Kyle Lohse 's liner to end the second inning with runners on second and third that would have been a run-scoring hit.
In the third, Scutaro, the second baseman, made a tough stop on a short hop by Carlos Beltran , and left fielder Gregor Blanco ran down a hard-hit ball by Allen Craig in left-center to end the inning.
Cain's second-inning single made San Francisco the first team in major league postseason history to have a starting pitcher drive in a run in three straight elimination games.
Brandon Belt hit a solo homer in the eighth for his first clout of the postseason.
It took production from everybody, even the pitchers, for these scrappy Giants to rally back from the brink one more time.
Cain certainly did his part to keep the staff rolling.
The 16-game winner, who didn't surrender an earned run during his team's title run two years ago, reached 46 pitches through two innings but settled in nicely the rest of the way to avenge a loss to Lohse in Game 3.
Cain even got to repay Holliday for his hard slide into Scutaro at second base in Game 2 here a week earlier. Cain plunked Holliday in the upper left arm leading off the sixth, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The right-hander escaped trouble in the second with runners on second and third when Crawford made his catch.
Holliday returned to the lineup after missing Game 6 a night earlier with tightness in his lower back. He received loud boos when he stepped in to hit in the first from a fan base still angry about his slide that injured Scutaro's hip.
Beltran is still left 0-fer the World Series, winless in three Game 7s during his 15-year career. And to think just last fall he was on the other side with the Giants as they missed the playoffs a year after winning the club's first World Series since moving West in 1958.
"If you look at the games we made a lot of mistakes and they didn't make any," Beltran said. "They took advantage of those. They were able to put things together, offense, pitching, defense, and we couldn't do that."
The Cardinals went an NL-best 12-4 from Sept. 16 to the end of the season to earn the NL's second wild card on the second-to-last day of the season, then won 6-3 in a winner-take-all playoff at Atlanta to reach the division series. The Cardinals then rallied from a 6-0 deficit with a four-run ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals 9-7 in Game 5.
Sandoval's run-scoring groundout in the first that put his team ahead gave him at least one RBI in five straight postseason games, matching home run king Barry Bonds ' franchise record set in 2002.
Now, Sandoval and the Giants get to play on.
"It's just surreal. The victory lap right there was the greatest thing," said Zito, left off the 2010 postseason roster for all three rounds but now a candidate to pitch Game 1. "We play best when our backs are against the wall."
NOTES: The Giants snapped an 0-5 skid in deciding Game 7s. ... The Tigers and Giants will meet for the first time in the postseason.