San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Team Grades from NLCS Game 2
The series heads back to St. Louis for a pivotal Game 3 on Wednesday. The Cardinals did well to earn a split in San Francisco, shifting the home-field advantage back in their favor. That said, the Giants actually hit better on the road away from the pitcher-friendly confines at AT&T Park.
The keys to this game were Vogelsong delivering the first postseason quality start in seven tries for the Giants' struggling rotation, and Marco Scutaro's clutch two-run single, which drove in an extra run when Matt Holliday couldn't come up with the ball cleanly.
Here are my grades for both teams in Game 2.
Ryan Vogelsong delivered an outstanding start for the Giants, becoming their first starter in the postseason to get through six innings.
Vogelsong allowed four hits, two walks, a hit batter and one run while striking out four. He used an assortment of four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs, cutters, changeups and curves to keep the Cardinals off balance all night, and did a particularly good job of tying up hitters with fastballs inside on the hands, inducing several weak grounders and pop-ups.
Vogelsong also delivered five innings of one-run ball against the Reds in Game 3 of the NLDS. Matt Cain (5.06 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (11.25) and Barry Zito (6.75) have struggled mightily this postseason, but Vogelsong has delivered two very good starts thus far.
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect eighth inning, and Sergio Romo closed it out with a scoreless ninth for the Giants.
Chris Carpenter didn't pitch as poorly as his numbers indicate in his fifth start since coming off the disabled list.
He allowed five runs in four innings, but only two of those runs were earned. He made a critical throwing error in the Giants' four-run fourth inning on a tapper off the bat of Brandon Crawford. If Carpenter had made that play cleanly, the Cardinals likely would have gotten out of that inning down just 2-1.
Instead, Crawford was safe, and after Carpenter pitched around Angel Pagan, who led off the game with a home run, Scutaro delivered the two-run single that drove in a third run when Holliday kicked the ball around in the outfield.
Shelby Miller gave up two insurance runs in the eighth inning, though again, the Cardinals defense was the culprit in that damage.
The Giants didn't necessarily pound the ball all night, but they went 12-for-36 with three walks while reaching on an error. They only hit three extra-base hits, and one of those was a bloop by Brandon Belt.
Of the 16 men they put on base, they managed to drive in seven en route to a critical victory. They went just 4-for-14 with men in scoring position, but Scutaro's big hit opened the game up in the fourth and gave Vogelsong plenty of breathing room.
Scutaro and Theriot combined for three hits and four RBI from the second spot in the lineup, and Pagan was on base three times with two hits and a walk. His leadoff homer set the tone early.
The Cardinals went just 5-for-32 with two walks and a hit batsmen on the night. They were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base.
Carlos Beltran, the all-time postseason leader in OPS, hit two doubles and walked, providing most of the offense. Carpenter had the lone RBI with a double that drove in Peter Kozma in the second inning.
The Cardinals only struck out five times, but they had a hard time adjusting to Vogelsong's ability to jam them. They were just 5-for-27 on balls in play, and it wasn't as though they were hitting a ton of balls hard right at people.
The Cardinals' dominant right-handed lineup will have to adjust in Games 3 and 4 when they are likely to see tough righties in Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. They will also see Vogelsong again in Game 6, if it gets that far.
Vogelsong's Big Effort
The game ball has to go to Ryan Vogelsong.
He delivered seven innings of one-run ball against arguably the best lineup in the game. His biggest mistake was walking Kozma after getting ahead 0-2, then grooving a hittable fastball to Carpenter for the Cardinals' lone run of the night.
Other than that, the journeyman pitcher was fantastic. His ability to run the ball in on the Cardinals righties, cut it away from them and then mix in his four-seam fastball kept them from squaring him up all night.
Two years ago, Vogelsong had washed out at Triple-A after spending time in Japan and undergoing multiple arm surgeries. Now he's suddenly the Giants' best postseason pitcher. His journey back to life as a big league pitcher has been quite a story, and it keeps getting better.
After a brutal seven-start stretch late in the year, he pitched well over his final three outings to cement his spot in the postseason rotation. This postseason he's pitched 12 innings and allowed seven hits, five walks, two runs and a 1.50 ERA to help the Giants win two crucial games.
Carpenter's inability to throw out Crawford at first on his fourth-inning dribbler opened the floodgates for the Giants that critical inning. Even though Belt was going to score to make it 2-1, getting Crawford would have set up the Cardinals to get out of the inning with no further damage.
The difference between 2-1 and 5-1 is massive, particularly in October.
And outside his error in the fourth, Matt Holliday also failed to get to a bloop hit in the eighth inning, which helped the Giants tack on two more insurance runs and put the game completely out of reach.
Peter Kozma did make an incredible diving stop of a Crawford liner to end the fifth inning, and David Freese made a couple of nice plays at the hot corner; however, the Cardinals defense let them down in Game 2.
Final Team Grades
It was a great day all around for the Giants.
The offense delivered 12 hits and seven runs.
The defense made all the plays—with a nice running catch from Pagan to open the game, and a couple of sweet plays by the slick-fielding Crawford at short.
Scutaro stood in toughly at second base on a double-play grounder with the 6'4", 235-pound Holliday bearing down on him. The Giants didn't get the out at first, but the gutty effort by Scutaro seemed to galvanize the AT&T Park crowd, as Holliday was vehemently booed the rest of the night.
Scutaro would later leave the game due to a hip injury suffered on that play, unfortunately, but Ryan Theriot stepped up and delivered a two-run single off the bench.
Vogelsong and the bullpen limited the potent Cards lineup to just one run on five hits.
A dominant 7-1 victory by the Giants evened the series, and it gives them a chance to turn the NLCS around completely with a win in Game 3.
It was not the Cardinals' best effort of the postseason, to say the least. They only got four innings out of their starter, made a few defensive mistakes and only managed one run.
Still, they came into AT&T Park and did what they need to do: split the two games and take back the home-field advantage. They did that with their 6-4 victory in Game 1.
A win in Game 2 would have put them firmly in the driver's seat. However, if they win three straight home games later this week, the defending champs will be ticketed for their second straight World Series appearance.
In order to knock off the 2010 champs, the right-leaning Cardinals lineup will need to come up with a better approach against Cain and Lincecum.
St. Louis had a .787 OPS against lefties this year, and they pounded lefty Madison Bumgarner in Game 1. However, their OPS fell to .747 against righties, and they struggled with the right-handed Vogelsong in Game 2.
With such an outstanding lineup one through eight, the resilient Cardinals will likely be heard from again in this series.