Giants vs. Cardinals: Complete Team Grades for NLCS Game 6
Game 6 of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals was a rematch between Ryan Vogelsong of the Giants and Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals.
Vogelsong was dominant in that first matchup, throwing seven strong innings for the Giants' first victory in the series. The Giants were counting on Vogelsong to repeat that performance in a do-or-die Game 6 on Sunday night.
They got just that, as Vogelsong delivered the start of his life with a career-high nine strikeouts while allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings.
With the Giants' 6-1 victory, the NLCS will go to a seventh and deciding game for the ninth time since it expanded to a seven-game format in 1985.
Here are final grades for each team's starter, bullpen, starting lineup and bench.
Giants Starting Pitcher: Ryan Vogelsong
Vogelsong started out strong, issuing a walk to first baseman Matt Carpenter but registering three strikeouts as well. It was more of the same from Vogelong in the second inning, retiring catcher Yadier Molina on a groundout before striking out David Freese and Daniel Descalso.
Vogelsong kept up the pressure in the third, retiring the side in order and registering another strikeout, giving him six in three innings.
Through four innings, Vogelsong had seven strikeouts, throwing 58 pitches. Not one ball off a Cardinals bat even came close to finding its way to a hit.
Vogelsong finally showed he wasn't invincible on this night, allowing consecutive singles to Descalso and Pete Kozma with two outs in the fifth. Vogelsong escaped further damage by retiring pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker on a groundout to end the Cardinals threat.
Vogelsong gave up his first extra-base hit in the sixth with two outs when Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran doubled to left field. This time, Vogelsong was unable to limit the damage, giving up a run-scoring single to Allen Craig for the first Cardinals run of the game. Vogelsong retired Molina on a liner to center fielder Angel Pagan, limiting the damage to just one run.
Vogelsong was back out for the seventh, but starting the inning after throwing 91 pitches, it appeared it might be his last. Vogelsong got Freese on a grounder to third base and then struck out Descalso for his ninth strikeout, setting a new career high. Kozma followed by reaching on an error by left fielder Gregor Blanco to extend the inning.
Vogelsong quickly retired pinch-hitter Shane Robinson on a flyout to Blanco, putting an end to a terrific night when the Giants needed him most.
Vogelsong's line for the night: seven innings pitched, one run, four hits, one walk, nine strikeouts.
Cardinals Starting Pitcher: Chris Carpenter
Carpenter put himself in trouble in the first, issuing a walk to second baseman Marco Scutaro and allowing a double to Pablo Sandoval to put runners on second and third with one out.
Buster Posey grounded out to third base, scoring Scutaro with the first run of the game for the Giants. Carpenter escaped further damage by striking out struggling right fielder Hunter Pence.
Carpenter again got in trouble right away in the second when Brandon Belt tripled to the deepest part of the ballpark. After striking out Gregor Blanco, Carpenter intentionally walked shortstop Brandon Crawford in order to pitch to opposing pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
The plan backfired. Vogelsong reached on a fielding error by shortstop Pete Kozma, scoring Belt with the second Giants' run.
The error by Kozma extended the inning. After striking out Pagan, the sizzling Scutaro doubled off Carpenter, driving in both Crawford and Vogelsong for a 4-0 Giants lead.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny gamely stuck with Carpenter, hoping his resilient veteran could bounce back and give his team some solid middle innings.
Carpenter gave up a double to Gregor Blanco with one out in the third, but left him stranded after retiring Crawford for his third strikeout of the inning. Carpenter worked around a two-out single in the fourth inning unscathed as well.
Carpenter's night was then over, replaced in the bottom of the fourth by pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker.
Carpenter's line on the night: four innings pitched, five runs (two earned), six hits, two walks, six strikeouts.
Giants Starting Lineup
It became quickly apparent that the San Francisco Giants were coming out with an aggressive approach against opposing pitcher Chris Carpenter. The aggressiveness worked.
The Giants offense struck quickly in the first. Pablo Sandoval followed up a Marco Scutaro walk with a double to center field, putting runners at second and third with one out. Catcher Buster Posey did his job, grounding out to third baseman David Freese to plate Scutaro with the first run of the game.
The Giants did more damage in the second. First baseman Brandon Belt led off with a triple to center field. The Cardinals' plan to pitch to Ryan Vogelsong by walking shortstop Brandon Crawford backfired, with Vogelsong reaching on a fielding error by shortstop Pete Kozma, scoring Belt with the Giants' second run.
Marco Scutaro, the spark plug for the Giants offense since his trade from the Colorado Rockies, continued his offensive onslaught, ripping a double to left field to score both Crawford and Vogelsong.
Sandoval again delivered, singling up the middle to score Scutaro and give the Giants a 5-0 lead after two innings.
Despite a two-out double by Gregor Blanco, the Giants were finally held scoreless in the third and again in the fourth despite another hit by Scutaro. With his fourth-inning single, Scutaro is now hitting .478 in the NLCS with four RBI.
The Giants did their job, knocking Carpenter out after four innings with five runs on six hits. Now the task was to keep the pressure on the Cardinals bullpen.
They were unsuccessful in the fifth against Cardinals reliever Shelby Miller, who allowed a single to Hunter Pence but got the next two batters on fly-ball outs. They went down in order against Miller in the sixth inning as well, but not before a tremendous 13-pitch at-bat by Angel Pagan before flying out to center fielder John Jay. The Giants went down in order in the seventh against reliever Fernando Salas as well.
San Francisco struck for another important insurance run in the eighth inning with pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot delivering with an RBI single.
While the Giants didn't do much damage after the first two innings, their fast start proved to be more than enough.
Cardinals Starting Lineup
The Cardinals came out sputtering in the first two innings as Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong struck out five during that stretch, with the only blemish being a harmless walk to first baseman Matt Carpenter in the first.
Volelsong clearly brought his A-game early, as the Cardinals continued struggling, going down meekly in the third inning as well. Not quite the beginning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was hoping for—no runs, no hits and six strikeouts in three innings.
Again, the Cardinals couldn't bring their weapons to bear against Vogelsong in the fourth, going out in order once again.
The Cardinals finally got the bats going in the fifth.
With two outs, Daniel Descalso singled for the first hit of the game and shortstop Pete Kozma followed with a single of his own, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Matheny went to his bench, calling on Skip Schumaker to pinch-hit for starter Chris Carpenter. Schumaker was unable to deliver, however, grounding out to first baseman Brandon Belt to strand two runners.
The top of the order came up to face Vogelsong in the top of the sixth.
John Jay and Carpenter both grounded out, but right fielder Carlos Beltran delivered the Cardinals' first extra-base hit of the night, doubling to left field. Allen Craig followed with a run-scoring single to left field for the first run of the night for the Cardinals. However, catcher Yadier Molina lined out to center fielder Angel Pagan on the first pitch to end the inning with just one run scored.
The Cardinals' struggles continued in the seventh with Vogelsong still on the hill. With two outs, Kozma reached on an error by left fielder Gregor Blanco, but then retired pinch-hitter Shane Robinson on a fly ball to Blanco.
It was a tremendous effort by Vogelsong that limited the Cardinals offense to just one run on four hits.
Matt Carpenter tried to get things going in the eighth inning with a one-out single off reliever Jeremy Affeldt. Beltran followed with a strikeout, and after Giants manager Bruce Bochy replaced Affeldt with right-hander Santiago Casilla, Casilla induced Craig to bounce into a force play, ending the inning and the potential threat.
The Cardinals went down meekly in the ninth off closer Sergio Romo.
With San Francisco Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong working a beauty through five innings and the Giants offense getting to opposing starter Chris Carpenter for five runs, it appeared that the bullpen would be getting a break on this night.
After getting seven strong from Vogelsong, Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave the ball to reliever Jeremy Affeldt to start the top of the eighth.
Affeldt got the first out on a comebacker before allowing a single to first baseman Matt Carpenter. Affeldt then got the dangerous Carlos Beltran out with a strikeout, handing the ball over to right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla.
Casilla induced Allen Craig to ground into a force out to end the inning.
Sergio Romo came on for the Giants to end things on this night and send the series to all-important seventh deciding game.
Romo was perfect on this night, as was the entire Giants staff in shutting down the Cardinals offense.
Bullpen line: two innings pitched, no runs, one hit, two strikeouts.
The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen was called upon early after starter Chris Carpenter worked just four innings, allowing five runs on six hits. Manager Mike Matheny would be counting on his charges to keep the Giants at bay until the Cardinals bats finally woke up.
Shelby Miller came to start the bottom of the fifth. Miller allowed a single to Hunter Pence with one out, but left him stranded by retiring Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco to end the fifth.
Miller came back out for a second inning of relief in the sixth. He was more than up to the task, striking out both Brandon Crawford and Ryan Vogelsong before winning a 13-pitch battle with center fielder Angel Pagan with a flyout to center field. A nice two innings by the young Miller.
Fernando Salas replaced Miller to start the bottom of the seventh. Salas worked a quick 1-2-3 frame, giving the Cardinals bullpen three scoreless innings in relief of Carpenter.
Salas started the inning by striking out Hunter Pence. Matheny then called on southpaw Marc Rzepczynski to face left-handed hitter Brandon Belt. Belt reached on a bad-hop grounder to second baseman Descalso for a base hit. Rzepczynski bore down and struck out Blanco, but then walked Brandon Crawford on four pitches.
With right-handed pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot coming to the plate, Matheny replaced Rzepczynski with Edward Mujica. Mujica allowed a run-scoring single to Theriot, giving the Giants a five-run lead entering the top of the ninth inning.
Bullpen line: four innings pitched, one run, three hits, one walk, five strikeouts.
The brilliant pitching of starter Ryan Vogelsong and the fast start by the San Francisco Giants offense meant that manager Bruce Bochy wouldn't have to rely on his bench much in Game 6.
Bochy's first move was installing Ryan Theriot to pinch-hit for reliever Jeremy Affeldt with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Theriot delivered with a run-scoring single to give the Giants a 6-1 lead.
Joaquin Arias replaced third baseman Pablo Sandoval to start the ninth.
Not much needed, but what was needed delivered.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was forced to go to his bench early, using pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker with two outs in the bottom of the fifth with runners on first and second. Schumaker grounded out to Brandon Belt to end the Cardinals threat.
Matheny again went to his bench in the top of the seventh inning with two outs, inserting pinch-hitter Shane Robinson for relief pitcher Shelby Miller. Robinson flew out to left fielder Gregor Blanco in front of the warning track to end the seventh.
Giants' Overall Grade
Faced with a do-or-die game, the San Francisco Giants delivered in all facets of the game.
A brilliant seven-inning effort by starter Ryan Vogelsong was followed by two scoreless innings from three relievers.
The Giants offense gave Vogelsong an early lift with five runs in the first two innings, adding an insurance run in the eighth as well.
The bench came through with pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot delivering the final run of the game with his single in the eighth inning.
A superlative effort from every corner of the Giants roster led to this all-important victory.
Cardinals' Overall Grade
Faced with the prospect of eliminating the San Francisco Giants and moving on to their second consecutive World Series appearance, the St. Louis Cardinals put up a dud of an effort on Sunday night.
Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, clearly bothered by home plate umpire Jerry Layne's tight strike zone, got lit up for five runs on six hits in four innings. He wasn't helped by his defense either, as shortstop Pete Kozma's fielding error in the second inning led to three unearned runs.
While the bullpen held up their end of the bargain by allowing just one run in four innings, the Cardinals were unable to mount any kind of an offensive attack all night.
The Cards were held to just one run on four hits by starter Ryan Vogelsong in his seven innings of work, and they were unable to climb back into the game against the Giants bullpen, either.
All in all, this is a loss that could prove to be the turning point in this NLCS. The Cardinals will now have to face Giants ace Matt Cain in Game 7 on Monday night. Certainly not a prospect they were relishing.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.