By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
As the San Francisco Giants enter Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, both teams feel the urgency to produce a win. Suddenly, the Giants had the momentum sway to their side as Barry Zito pitched a masterful game for his team, while the Cardinals know that they are just one win away from the World Series.
San Francisco has been in this situation before. With their backs against the wall, they historically came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Cincinnati Reds in the best-of-five National League Division Series and advance to the NLCS.
Needing to win two games before the Cardinals win one, the Giants are ready for the task.
In this best-of-seven NLCS, the Giants need to keep playing hard and taking advantage of St. Louis’ mistakes.
Vogelsong and #RallyEnchiladas
The starting pitching has suffered throughout the postseason. The inability to get quality starts from the rotation was difficult to ignore. Once they began to get back on track, success soon followed.
The importance of rotation’s performance became a focal point and fans joined in.
Fans began a movement to support the Giants, namely Barry Zito, at their first elimination game of the series by tweeting #RallyZito and changing their Twitter icons to pictures of the left-hander. Support for Vogelsong has already been building with a new rally cry “#RallyEnchiladas”, named for the pitcher’s routine of eating chicken enchiladas the night before his scheduled starts.
While realistically the Twitter hashtags do not have an effect on the game, the focus is the same for all that are invested in the series—the starting pitching.
When the starting pitching takes command, the team follows. Vogelsong put in a quality start in Game 2, going 7.0 innings where he allowed only one run on four hits. His team won that contest 7-1, evening up the series before heading to St. Louis.
That is the Vogelsong that the Giants need in Game 6 and he’s ready for the challenge.
God has been preparing me for this moment for a long time; overseas, winter ball, all the struggles. I feel like God’s been using all those situations to prepare me for this postseason,” Vogelsong said on Friday. “That’s where my confidence comes from.”
The sooner, the better
Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter is ready to win the series for his team, something he has done before. Of the five games he started in which his team was one game away from clinching a postseason series, he is 3-1.
He’s been in this position and knows what needs to be done.
In Game 2, Carpenter lasted only 4.0 innings and allowed 5 runs on 6 hits. In that game, his throwing error began a rally that led to a Giants win. While important, San Francisco should not just depend on the errors of the opposition to squeak out a win, they must create and take advantage of their own scoring opportunities.
The Giants need to capitalize early and get the right-hander off of his game, staying away from the bullpen that has been successful of late.
“The bullpen right now seems to be clicking pretty well, but it all begins and ends with our starting pitching, we know that,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on Saturday.
Keep it going, defense!
When things go south, the spotlight tends to shine on what went wrong while what went right remains ignored. Even when things are good, the Giants defense tends to take a back seat to the pitching or offense.
“It’s something I see all the time, so it doesn’t surprise me. But for people that don’t see us all the time it might,” Vogelsong said.
On Friday, the Giants’ gloves kept the Cardinals from showing much life as the Giants went on to win. In order to advance, the strong defense needs to stay in tact. As a team that has taken advantage of defensive mistakes, San Francisco knows what happens when there are slip-ups on the field.
Game 6 is just hours away. For the Giants, the World Series is two wins away with no room for a loss. They have been playing with a cloud of others’ doubt hovering above the team, but they keep going. Elimination game? No problem.
“Well, I can’t speak for everyone else. I’ll give you my take on it real quick,” Vogelsong said. “Everyone counted us out four or five times this year already. First when Wilson went down. People said we couldn’t do it.
“Then we lost Melky, unfortunately. People said we couldn’t do it.
“The Dodgers made the big trade. People said we weren’t going to do it.
“We go down 2 to Cincinnati, they said we’re not going to do it.
“I think it’s the perseverance through the whole season is where we draw the confidence that until it’s not over until the last out is made.”
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.