SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Giants needed a wake-up call and they got one from the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.
After dropping the opening game in the National League Championship Series on Sunday to stretch their losing streak at home in the post-season to three games, another loss may have put the Giants on the ropes against St. Louis.
But in the first inning of Game 2 on Monday, a hard slide into second base by Holliday that flattened second baseman Marco Scutaro seemed to fire up the Giants — especially Scutaro.
The one-time Toronto Blue Jay, collected two hits and keyed the Giants’ four-run fourth with a bases-clearing single — the third run scored on an error by Holliday.
It all added up to a 7-1 victory by the Giants that evened the best-of-seven NLCS at a game apiece.
“Somebody (a fan) said that’s going to piss us off and sure enough we scored four there,” Giants veteran Aubrey Huff said. “It looked like we did play with a little bit more edge after that. It was kind of dead in the dugout for the first two or three innings and then that (four-run fourth) happened. It seemed to spark us a little bit.”
Huff wasn’t the only Giants player to feel that way.
“That particular play pumped us up and kind of got us going,” said left fielder Gregor Blanco. “After that we said we’ve got to show them that we can win the game.”
Thanks to a superb effort from their starter Ryan Vogelsong, that’s exactly what the Giants did.
Scutaro, meanwhile, was removed from the game after the fifth due to a hip problem.
“He had X-rays. They were negative,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy reported. “He was pretty sore there. He had to come out of the game.
“We’ll do some more tests tomorrow (Tuesday) and see where he’s at. We’re hoping for the best.”
While the Giants players seemed to think the slide by Holliday was a hard one but not dirty, Bochy wasn’t as generous.
“I really think they got away with an illegal slide there,” he said. “The rule was changed a while back. And he really didn’t hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked. It’s a shame that somebody got hurt because of this.”
Besides the heroics of Scutaro, the Giants received a much-needed solid performance from Vogelsong.
The right-hander provided Giants’ first quality start of the post-season as he checked the Cards on one run and four hits over seven innings.
“He gave us what we needed,” Bochy said of his starter. “We’ve been looking for a quality start, a great start, and he really helped out the bullpen. Just a gutsy effort.”
Scutaro was a major asset for the Giants after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies on July 27. In 61 games with San Fran during the regular season he hit .362, drove in 44 runs and scored 40.
Monday’s win also saw the Giants topple Chris Carpenter, a major hurdle for any team to clear in the post-season, saddling him with just the third playoff loss of his career against 10 wins.
The series resumes Wednesday with the first of three games in St. Louis.
That the Giants are going into St. Louis with a split instead of being down two games is monumental.
“(St. Louis) would have a huge advantage, no two ways about it,” Huff said. “We just came back from an 0-2 in a five-game series (against the Cincinnati Reds). It’s not impossible but that’s not the kind of stuff you want to keep playing fire with. You don’t want to keep going 0-2 every series. It’s going to burn you eventually.
“Getting a split, we’ll take it, especially losing the first one.”
Of the four runs the Giants would score in the fourth, three were unearned thanks to a throwing error by Carpenter and a fielding miscue by Holliday on Scutaro’s double.
Brandon Belt got it started for the Giants with a one-out bloop double to left.
Blanco moved Belt to third when his chopper bounced up and over St. Louis third baseman David Freese.
Brandon Crawford followed with a nubber that was fielded by Carpenter, but in his haste the Cardinals right-hander fired wildly toward first, pulling Craig off the bag. Belt scored on the play.
A sacrifice bunt by Ryan Vogelsong was followed by a walk to Pagan that loaded the bases.
Scutaro then rifled a line drive to left-centre that cleared the bases and left him with two runs batted in.
Carpenter lasted four innings, allowing five runs — three unearned — on six hits. He came into the game having allowed three runs or less in six consecutive post-season starts.
The loss also dropped the Cardinals’ record when he starts in the post-season to 13-4.