SAN FRANCISCO — Home, sweet home. Finally.
The San Francisco Giants walked off the field at AT&T Park victorious for the first time this postseason on Monday, and just in the nick of time. A tie-breaking four-run fourth inning and Ryan Vogelsong’s quality start enabled the Giants to beat in the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 in Game 2.
The best-of-seven National League Championship Series shifts to the Gateway City for Games 3, 4 and 5 tied 1-1, something the Giants welcome after having rallied improbably from an 0-2 deficit with three wins in Cincinnati in the NLDS.
The 35-year-old, right-handed Vogelsong gave the Giants something they had not experienced this postseason — more than six innings from a starting pitcher. Vogelsong exited after seven solid innings, giving up one run and four hits while striking out four and walking two while throwing 106 pitches, 69 of which were for strikes.
Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt pitched a 1-2-3 eighth while Sergio Romo mopped up in the ninth. The Cardinals didn’t have a hit after Carlos Beltran’s two-out double in the fifth inning until Yadier Molina singled to lead off the ninth.
Ryan Theriot’s bases-loaded, two-run single in the eighth gave the Giants a comfortable lead. Theriot replaced Marco Scutaro in the sixth when the starting second baseman left the game five innings after absorbing a hard slide on defense.
The Giants scored four runs in the fourth inning for the second straight night. But unlike Game 1, in which they were trailing 6-0, Monday’s rally broke a 1-1 tie and gave them their largest lead at home during the postseason.
Brandon Belt hit an off-field double to left with one out and moved to third when Gregor Blanco bounced a single over the head of Cardinals third baseman David Freese. Eighth-place hitter Brandon Crawford knocked in the go-ahead run with a swinging bunt to the right side. St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter fielded Crawford’s ball, but committed a throwing error, which was the first of two Cardinal errors in the frame.
Vogelsong executed a sacrifice bunt with two strikes and Angel Pagan drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Scutaro delivered the key hit, a hard single to left-center on a 1-1 pitch that drove in two runs. Left fielder Matt Holliday bobbled the ball, allowing a third run to score on the play.
The Giants had taken a 1-0 lead in the first when Pagan hit his second leadoff home run this postseason. Only Pagan and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (2008) have hit as many as two leadoff homers during the same playoff season in postseason history.
The Cardinals’ productive bottom of the order rallied for a tying run in the second inning with two outs. Pete Kozma drew a bases-loaded walk, much to the chagrin of Vogelsong, who thought he got squeezed by plate umpire Chris Guccione. The rookie shortstop scored from first on Carpenter’s double to the gap in left-center.
Scutaro got rolled hard at second base as Holliday successfully broke up a double play with a take-out slide in the first inning. Scutaro remained in the game until the sixth.
NOTES: The Giants started the postseason 0-3 at home after going 48-33 as hosts during the regular season, tied for the fifth best mark in the league. … San Francisco was hitting .165 as a team in the three previous postseason games at home before Monday. The Giants averaged only 3.80 runs per game at AT&T, the sixth lowest average in the majors. … Carpenter had won five straight postseason starts and was 10-2 lifetime in the playoffs before getting replaced after four innings and 76 pitches in Game 2. … Following Tuesday’s off-day in the series, the Giants’ Matt Cain is expected to oppose Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals when St. Louis on Wednesday hosts the first of as many as three games.