Score and situation: The NLCS matchup that seemed destined to go seven games will do just that after the San Francisco Giants locked up a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.
Leading lads: Ryan Vogelsong set the tone for the game by striking out the side in the first inning. He would settle in for another six strong innings, allowing only one run on four hits, while setting a new career high — regular and postseason — with nine strikeouts. In all honesty, it was his most complete and dominant outing in 2012, and it obviously could not have come at a better time for San Francisco.
At the plate, Marco Scutaro continued his torrid postseason with his fifth two-hit game in the NLCS. He also scored two runs and knocked in two more with a two-out double in the second inning that extended the lead to 4-0. Pablo Sandoval then made it 5-0 with a run-scoring single and that was pretty much all she wrote for St. Louis.
Head hangers: Chris Carpenter didn't have it early on and the pivotal second inning unraveled on him so quickly that manager Mike Matheny had little choice but to ride it out. That ended up working out pretty well for St. Louis as Carpenter was able to finish out with two strong innings and conserve the bullpen a bit, but the damage was already done with Vogelsong dealing. In the end, Carpenter tossed four innings with five runs allowed, only two of which were earned. That matched his Game 2 totals in those three categories, and should St. Louis ultimately lose this series Carpenter's two disappointing starts could be viewed as the difference.
[Also: Matt Holliday's bad back scratches him from NLCS Game 6]
As indicated by the line, Carpenter's defense didn't help him out much. In the first inning, David Freese couldn't handle a ground ball clean enough to get a potential out at the plate. In the second, Pete Kozma botched Ryan Vogelsong's butcher boy grounder and was unable to record an out. That allowed one run to score and opened the door to a big four-run inning.
Key play: The error by Kozma put Carpenter and the Cardinals in a very tough spot. Had he at least been able to retire Vogelsong at first, it's possible, if not likely, the bleeding would have been stopped at one run. Instead, the inning continued beyond Angel Pagan's strikeout that followed, with Scutaro and Sandoval driving in the those three back-breaking unearned runs.
Interesting stat: According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Cardinals have allowed 12 unearned runs this postseason after allowing only 45 unearned runs during the entire regular season. That was the fewest for any team in baseball.
What they'll be talking about: The Giants resiliency shines through again as they won their fifth straight elimination game this postseason. They will put that streak on the line in the winner-take-all Game 7 against a Cardinals team that has won six straight elimination games over the past two postseasons. Something has to give on Monday night. Which side will it be?
What's next: Game 7 will take place at AT&T Park in San Francisco and has a scheduled first pitch of 8:07 ET. The starting pitching matchup will feature a rematch from the low scoring Game 3 with Kyle Lohse on the hill for St. Louis and Matt Cain taking the ball for San Francisco. The Cardinals won that night, 3-1.
It will be all hands on deck for both sides as Game 4 starters Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright will be available out of the bullpen.
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