Cardinals-Giants Preview

The Giants sure are tough to eliminate this postseason.

Barry Zito and the Giants gave themself at least one more game

in the NL championship series with a 5-0 victory Friday in St.

Louis that forced Sunday’s Game 6 back at AT&T Park.

Just where the NL West winners want to be with their season on

the line – in front of the raucous, orange towel-waving sellout

crowd.

”It’s great to be back in San Francisco. There is no

tomorrow,” Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said. ”It’s a unique

feeling. It has brought the best out of us.”

The wild-card Cardinals traveled out West again for a trip they

certainly hoped they wouldn’t have to make. Defending champion St.

Louis leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, needing one more win for

a World Series return.

St. Louis knows how hard winning the last one can be considering

what this Giants team already did during these playoffs: winning

three straight on the road at Cincinnati in the division series

after falling behind 2-0.

”They’ve been doing this all year. Obviously, the Cincinnati

series, here come the Giants,” Cardinals third baseman David

Freese said. ”It’s good for TV but it’s disappointing in (our)

sense.”

Game 2 winner Ryan Vogelsong starts for the Giants for the

second time this series against Chris Carpenter, who lost that

matchup at San Francisco on Monday.

”No question, we want to win it as soon as we can. We wanted to

do it last night,” Carpenter said Saturday. ”But, again, we have

to get one win before they get two. We’ll do whatever we can. If

it’s not tomorrow night we’ll come in and do it again.”

While the Cardinals took a day to rest – Carpenter and a couple

of pitchers did play some catch – Pence and most of his team showed

up at the ballpark in late afternoon to hit and work out even

though manager Bruce Bochy gave his players the day off.

With Vogelsong on the mound, the Giants have to like their

chances to push the series to a Game 7.

Vogelsong became the first Giants starter to make it through six

innings this postseason when he went seven strong innings in a 7-1

Game 2 victory. He allowed four hits and one run for his first

career postseason win.

”We all kind of feel like we’ve been in this situation before

with Cincinnati,” Vogelsong said. ”And it’s not over until the

last out. I think both teams that are playing right now have proved

that in the first round.”

Giants general manager Brian Sabean wasn’t surprised to see his

team on the field Saturday for an optional practice – realizing

full well players didn’t want to risk losing any momentum from the

night before.

”Sometimes you wonder how much at this stage that there is a

home-field advantage,” Sabean said. ”In some cases, because of

the bullpens, it’s probably as much as whoever gets the lead and

can hold off the other ballclub from scoring will win the ballgame.

We know what’s at stake. We know that they’re going to put a game

against us. I’m sure Vogey will be ready.”

St. Louis postseason ace Carpenter was looking forward to

another chance, too.

He has been plenty reliable this time of year for the Cardinals,

with his 10 postseason victories the most in franchise history. His

stuff never felt right the last time out against the Giants, when

he allowed two earned runs, five in all, and six hits in four

innings.

”It doesn’t matter if you’re on the road, what game it is, it’s

the first one to win four games, and hopefully we can do that

tomorrow,” Carpenter said.

The 37-year-old Carpenter pitched two clinchers last October and

went 4-0. He won the division series clincher and did it again in

Game 7 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

So, why not add that NLCS distinction to his impressive October

resume?

It’s already been a memorable month for Carpenter, who came back

to make three starts – throwing just 17 innings – late in the

regular season after a complicated operation that removed a rib and

two neck muscles to relieve numbness on his right side.

He is counting on commanding his fastball better this time out.

His postseason ERA in two outings this year is 1.86.

”The last time out my stuff went backwards a little bit,”

Carpenter said. ”I was trying everything I could to get outs but

unfortunately it didn’t work. I had some nice work in between that

start and this start, I feel good and I’m looking forward to

getting back out there.”

The Giants returned to the Bay Area as soon as they could to get

ready for Game 6, flying home overnight and landing at 2:30 a.m.

But the Cardinals still had to go home after Friday night’s game

and pack their bags. They slept in their own beds and took off from

St. Louis at midday Central time.

San Francisco, which made an improbable run to the 2010 World

Series title, hopes to send St. Louis out of town empty-handed. The

Giants won the NLCS in five games at their waterfront ballpark

against the Cardinals in 2002 before falling short in a seven-game

Series to the wild-card Angels.

The Detroit Tigers are waiting on their opponent after a

four-game ALCS sweep of the New York Yankees.

Not that Bochy or Cardinals manager Mike Matheny can even think

that far in advance, just yet.

”I don’t necessarily see them as pesky as much as just

talented,” Matheny said of the Giants. ”And the same kind of

makeup that we have, they aren’t going to go away and neither are

we. And we knew that going into this thing. As soon as we won a

couple of games at home there was nobody in there for a second

under the belief that this was going to be a team that was going to

just roll over. So we know that this team has the ability to do

what they did, once again, in Cincinnati, running in there and

doing something that hasn’t been done all season. … It’s just a

matter of execution, and they executed better than us

yesterday.”