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.
"He gave us what we needed," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Vogelsong. "We've been looking for a quality start, a great start, and he really helped out the bullpen with just a gutty effort."
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 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.
"I think that's the best big-league outing I've had from the third inning on," said Vogelsong, crediting a correction in his mechanics while pitching out of the stretch. "I just kept trying to mix it up depending on hitters and situations just tried to bounce the ball around the zone like I normally do."
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and 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.
"He set a good tempo and kept our guys off-balance," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Vogelsong. "He's done that to us a couple of time now. We haven't made the adjustments and he's executed his pitches well."
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 from St. Louis' Matt Holiday while trying to turn a double play in the first.
Scutaro remained in the game and stroked a clutch single in the fourth that scored three runs when combined with a Holliday error. But he came out when his left hip became too painful. X-rays afterward were negative, but Bochy said Scutaro would likely undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
"I really think they got away with an illegal slide," Bochy said. "That rule was changed awhile back. And he really didn't hit the dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked.
"It's a shame somebody got hurt because of this," Bochy added.
Matheny said he had not seen a replay of the play, but he defended Holliday's actions.
"I watched it live and it looked like it was a hard slide," Matheny said. "We teach our guys to go hard, play the game clean, play it hard, not try and hurt anybody."
Theriot, who played for the World Series champion Cardinals last season, made a number of plays at second and was happy to contribute in his new role as a non-starter.
"I stay prepared as much as I can," Theriot said. "You take batting practice and groundballs a little more seriously when you're not playing every day. That's the time when I have to stay sharp. During the game I just try to stay sharp and stay ready."
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 inning.
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. Holliday bobbled the ball, allowing a third run to score on the play.
"The real hard-hit balls ended up just stacking up on top of each other," Matheny said of Carpenter's outing. "We have faith in him in these situations and know he'll come out in his next opportunity and make good pitches for us."
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.
"It was nice getting a lead," Bochy said. "It didn't last long but still was something we needed."
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.
NOTES: The Giants started the postseason 0-3 at home after going 48-33 at AT&T Park 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 on Wednesday in the first of three games at St. Louis. Game 4 is Thursday and Game 5 is Friday.