San Francisco Giants Force NLCS Game 7 with 6-1 Win over St. Louis Cardinals

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2012

The San Francisco Giants refuse to die, forcing a decisive Game 7 in the NLCS with a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.   

If you thought Barry Zito was good in Game 5, Ryan Vogelsong was that much better in Game 6. The Giants right-hander went seven strong innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out a career-high nine batters. Receiving run support was helpful, but the seven-year veteran was on cruise control throughout.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Tim Kawakami hit the nail on the head following Vogelsong's ninth strikeout:

Vogelsong gets his 9th strikeout on an 88-mph fastball. He's in a zone. And Cardinals hitters are not.

— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) October 22, 2012

Vogelsong's performance was supported by six hits off St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter. Carpenter was chased after four innings, failing to showcase his veteran experience at a critical time for his team.

Shelby Miller, Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski threw well in relief, but the Cardinals' failure to generate any offense made their efforts a moot point.

The game's scoring started in the first inning when Buster Posey hit a ground-ball out, bringing home Marco Scutaro from third. 

San Francisco then added to its lead in the second inning, bringing home four runs. Ryan Vogelsong plated Brandon Belt on a ground-ball bobbled by Pete Kozma, Marco Scutaro slapped a two-run double to deep left field and Pablo Sandoval made sure Scutaro crossed home plate with a single of his own.

With two hits on the night, Scutaro is now hitting .458 in the NLCS. With several clutch hits, a case could be made to name him series MVP.

Here's what Sports Illustrated had to say about Scutaro following his second hit of the night:

Since "The Slide" Marco Scutaro is 9-for-18 with four RBIs. Matt Holliday is 2-for-16 and got hurt. Worth pointing out.

— SI MLB (@si_mlb) October 22, 2012

Allen Craig tried to rally his team in the sixth inning with a RBI single, but the lead stood at 5-1 entering the final three innings.

After a scoreless seventh inning, St. Louis had a chance for new life, as Vogelsong departed after his dominating start, turning the ball over to southpaw Jeremy Affeldt.

Matt Carpenter was able to get on base with one out in the eighth, but Affeldt was able to strikeout Carlos Beltran for a huge second out. Affeldt was then relieved by Santiago Casilla, who kept the Giants' 5-1 lead intact entering the final inning.

How good has Affeldt been in the playoffs? Allow the Giants' Twitter feed to clarify:

#SFGiants @jeremyaffeldt in 7 appearances this postseason has now tossed 7.0-scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts.

— #SFGStats (@SFG_Stats) October 22, 2012

The Giants eventually tacked on one run in the bottom of the eighth before Sergio Romo closed the game out in the top of the ninth, pushing the series to its final game.

Kyle Lohse (1-0, 1.59 ERA in NLCS) will take the mound for St. Louis in Game 7, while Matt Cain (0-1, 4.05 ERA in NLCS) looks to complete the Giants' comeback in what should be a fascinating game.

The Giants were left for dead after facing a two-game deficit, but they have clawed their way back. Now, both teams will have to lay it all on the line with one huge game left to play.

With two excellent starters on the mound, one key hit could make the difference with a World Series berth on the line. The Giants bats are hot, and the AT&T Park crowd was in a frenzy on Sunday night.

Counting the Cardinals out of anything is never a good idea, but momentum is completely in San Francisco's favor with two straight wins and home-field advantage.

Monday night's NLCS finale kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.