SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants seem to be taking on the toughness of Marco Scutaro, a player they didn’t acquire until July 27 from Colorado. He has raised the intensity level of the entire team.
The Giants forced Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday night at AT&T Park, and might be seeing the second coming of Cody Ross, who won the NLCS MVP in 2010 and led the Giants to a World Series championship.
Scutaro, who took the brunt of a controversial takeout slide by Matt Holliday in Game 2, injuring his left hip and knee, might be making a case for MVP if the Giants can win the pennant and become only the third team to be trailing, 3-1, and come back to make it to the World Series.
Since Scutaro took the slide and was injured, he has had nine hits, including two in Game 6, knocking in two key runs in the Giants’ four-run second inning. He’s batting .458 in the series. Coincidentally, Scutaro continues to play through injury, but Holliday was out of the lineup with back stiffness.
The Cardinals had an opportunity to bury the Giants Friday, leading, 3-1, in the series, but the Giants won, sent it back to San Francisco, and won another elimination game to tie the series.
The Giants send their ace, Matt Cain, against the Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse in Game 7 Monday night.
“I knew [Scutaro] was a good player who had a long and excellent career, but seeing him every day on our team, he’s been extraordianry on both sides. We used him at third base, where he hadn’t played in a long time, early on here and he did a good job. Now he’s playing second base and he’s been excellent. He’s come up with big hits and really set an example,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Scutaro is only the second player to hit safely in nine straight postseason games. The other is Ross, who hit in 10 straight in 2010.
Since the slide, Scutaro said he really hasn’t been in pain.
“Nothing major,” Scutaro said. “Even if it hurts, it wouldn’t matter.”
Ryan Vogelsong was pitching in Japan just three years ago. The 33-year-old righthander has become the Giants’ most dependable pitcher.
“To have a cushion early like that allows you to attack the zone more aggresively. To get runs early definitely affects how you attack,” Vogelsong said.
Vogelsong, who went seven innings, allowed just one run and struck out nine, bested Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, who has lost consecutive postseason starts for the first time in his career. Vogelsong held the Cardinals at bay, allowing his first hit with two outs in the fifth inning.
The Giants pounced for one run in the first after Carpenter walked Scutaro and allowed a double to Pablo Sandoval. The run scored on Buster Posey’s ground out.
Then the Giants scored four in the second inning.
Brandon Belt hit a one-out triple and Brandon Crawford was walked intentionally. Vogelsong reached on an error by shortstop Pete Kozma, scoring the first run of the inning. After Carpenter struck out Angel Pagan, Scutaro scorched a line-drive double to left, scoring a pair of runs. Sandoval then singled to make it 5-0.
The Cardinals showed some life in the sixth when Carlos Beltran doubled with two outs and scored on Allen Craig’s single. The Giants scored their final run on Ryan Theriot’s pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth.
Scutaro is offering the following advice to his teammates: “Just play your game. Don’t try to do too much. I’m not a power hitter and I’m not out there trying to hit home runs. I just want to get my base hits, get on base. we all need to do what we do best. If we do that, good things will happen.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.