By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
The path the San Francisco Giants took from being down 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals to forcing a Game 7 was led by pitchers Barry Zito in Game 5, Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6, and will be finished by Matt Cain in Game 7.
This NLCS comeback started with redemption, was followed by inspiration, and is anchored by perfection. Zito, Vogelsong, and Cain.
The starting pitching has set the tone for the team during this postseason. At times when they were unable to manage to make it to the sixth inning, the team struggled with them and looked like their life in this postseason was dwindling.
As the Cardinals were on the verge of eliminating San Francisco, Zito came in, pitched the game of his life, and revived the team as they were close to gasping for just a few more breaths of postseason air.
Zito, the Giant who was constantly criticized for not living up to expectations. Zito, the Giant whose big contract would always be referenced as he struggled. Zito, the big name Giant who was left off the 2010 postseason roster.
Throughout it all, he remained calm and handled the moments in stride. With Zito leading the charge, the Giants brought the NLCS back to AT&T Park.
For once, it felt like the Giants had complete control and Zito was the one who pulled them up to this point.
In Game 6, Vogelsong began where Zito left off. Game 2 of the NLCS provided a taste of what Vogelsong had in store. In Game 2, he became the first Giants pitcher to have a quality start as the team won 7-1. With the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter on the mound, the Giants bats chased him out of the game in 4.0 innings, while Vogelsong pitched another gem. Just like Game 2, in Game 6 Vogelsong lasted 7.0 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits. This time, he struck out a career-high 9 batters.
Vogelsong, the pitcher who struggled to remain in the Majors. Vogelsong, the pitcher who spent three years in playing ball in Japan as an attempt to save his career. Vogelsong, who had Tommy John surgery in 2003. Vogelsong, who spent time on 11 minor league teams between 1998-2012.
Again, it was Vogelsong who stood on the mound with such command that it was inevitable that San Francisco was headed to Game 7.
“I just believe that God had a plan for me this whole time and he’s shining down on me right now,” Vogelsong said after Game 6. “I feel like all the stuff that I went through, going to Japan, and going to winter ball at 33 years old, and getting back here last year is stuff that He was doing for me to get me prepared for this moment and I truly believe that.”
On Monday, Game 7 is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. PT.
Leading the charge will be Cain, the team’s workhorse. A quiet leader, he continues to have a calm presence around him that makes one wonder if a big game like this one can shake him. He has gotten better with each start during this postseason and with the wave of success the Giants are riding on, it would be of no surprise to see Cain continue the streak of dominant starts that San Francisco has putting up against St. Louis.
Cain, the Giant who has emerged as the team’s ace. Cain, the Giant with infamously low run support. Cain, who pitched a perfect game on June 13. Cain, the Giant who gets the start in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS.
The last time there was a Game 7 in San Francisco was in 1962—San Francisco has never won a Game 7.
As we have witnessed, this 2012 Giants team has a knack for making history. With 27 more outs until the World Series, there is no other Giants starter that the team would rather see on the mound than Matt Cain.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.