Cardinals channel history, blow 3-1 NLCS lead

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Cardinals channel history, blow 3-1 NLCS lead

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong's first pitch -- the first of many biting two-seam fastballs -- sparked a three-strikeout inning and sent a message to the Cardinals that they were in for a long night. St. Louis became just the fourth team ever to take a 3-1 LCS lead and go on to allow a Game 7.

The strange part about it? They've done it before.

Sixteen years ago in 1996, the Cardinals jumped out to a 3-1 series lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, but John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and the Braves chopped their way back to steal the series.

After their 3-1 loss in that year's Game 6, the Cardinals were done. They barely showed up for Game 7, which they lost by a score of 15-0 after the Braves scored six times in the opening frame.

This year, it was a 6-1 loss that forced Game 7, and it wasn't Maddux who delivered the gem -- it was Ryan Vogelsong.

"They have a good team over there," Yadier Molina said, "a good lineup."

Vogelsong pitched Sunday as if he felt the opposite of the Cardinals. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and struck out six of nine his first time through the lineup en route to a career-high nine strikeouts. He has St. Louis' full attention.

"Sometimes pitching gets the better of you," Jon Jay said after an 0-for-4 night in the leadoff spot. "Vogelsong did a good job tonight. You have to turn the page."

"He was in complete control of what he wanted to do tonight," Matt Carpenter acknowledged.

"He worked his fastball on both sides of the plate," Pete Kozma said. "He had good breaking pitches. He did a good job tonight."

Yadier Molina's scouting report was similar: "He was moving the ball pretty good. He was sinking and moving it. It was the same (as Game 2)."

Molina's prognosis was on point.

Vogelsong completed seven innings, allowing one earned run on four hits, just as he did in the Giants' Game 2 victory at AT&T Park.

"It hurts," said Kozma, whose error contributed to the Giants' four-run second inning.

His double play partner -- who took a ground ball off the cheek later in the game -- turned the page toward the decisive Game 7.

"We've got to be ready for anything," Daniel Descalso said. "We've just got to play our game. We are not going to come out here and roll over."

The Cardinals have already survived two elimination games this year, ousting the Braves in the NL Wild Card game and eliminating the Nationals after trailing Game 5 of the NLDS 6-0 through three innings.

"Tomorrow is going to be a great game," Jay said. "They have their ace and we have our guy."

Matt Cain vs. Kyle Lohse for a berth in the 2012 MLB World Series at 5:07 p.m.

For the fifth time Sunday night, the Giants staved off elimination with a win, when a loss would have ended their season. But for the first time, they treated their hometown crowd to the show, as all four previous elimination wins came on the road.

It was the first time in MLB history a team won four consecutive elimination games on the road.

The Giants look to stave off elimination for a sixth time Monday night in Game 7.

History is on their side. Since 1975, 14 home teams have won a Game 6 to force Game 7 and all but one of those teams went on to win Game 7.

Channeling the '96 Braves for six first-inning runs wouldn't hurt.

Since the seven-game LCS format was introduced in 1985.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

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SAN FRANCISCO — This, at long last, is a winning streak. A modest one, but still. 

Denard Span hit a walk-off single to right in the bottom of the 14th inning, giving the Giants a 4-3 win that became official one minute after midnight. The Giants have back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. 

The Giants led early, fell behind on a three-run dinger, and then chipped away until the game went to extras. Buster Posey twice gunned runners down at second to help keep the score tied and the bullpen held tough, with Cory Gearrin throwing three scoreless innings. 

Gearrin had a chance to win it for himself in the 14th, but he struck out with Gorkys Hernandez on second. Span promptly singled. If you’re just waking up for work, here are five things to know from a night when the seagulls outnumbered the humans … 

--- Matt Cain needs an assist on the first run of the night. With Gorkys Hernandez on first, he got a sacrifice bunt down on a two-strike curveball that was headed for the dirt. Hernandez went to second and promptly scored on Denard Span’s single to right. The curveball wasn’t so kind in the sixth. With a runner on, the Giants intentionally walked lifelong nemesis Nolan Arenado to get to Mark Reynolds. Cain hung a curve and Reynolds crushed it to left for a three-run homer. 

--- The Giants got a run back in the sixth when Brandon Crawford’s deep fly allowed Buster Posey to trot in from third. Crawford leads the majors with nine sacrifice flies. He also turned a ridiculous double play that can’t adequately be described, except to say that he should expand his trophy case. 

--- Kelby Tomlinson came off the bench to tie it in the bottom of the eighth. His single to right brought Brandon Belt in from third. Tomlinson is 9 for 27 as a pinch-hitter this season. That’ll keep you on the chartered jets. 

--- Sam Dyson, with a fastball that reached 97 and an infield defense that was just as firm, pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings in extras. What a find. 

--- With the go-ahead run on first and no outs in the 13th, Nolan Arenado put down a sacrifice bunt. That's one of the five best moments of the Giants' season.

Top pick Heliot Ramos visits AT&T Park, will start Giants career this weekend

Top pick Heliot Ramos visits AT&T Park, will start Giants career this weekend

SAN FRANCISCO — As he was wrapping up the first press conference of his career, Heliot Ramos was asked when he expects to be back at AT&T Park as a player. The 17-year-old smiled and said he hopes to debut in three years. 

“I know it’s hard, but that’s my dream,” Ramos continued. “I know I’ve got to work hard for that.”

A half-dozen Giants officials stood a few feet away, smiling. Three years would be incredibly impressive. It took Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones four years after being drafted out of high school to reach the big leagues. Buster Posey got a cup of coffee a year after he was drafted, but he was already 22 years old because he had played three years at Florida State. 

Ramos doesn’t turn 18 until September. The Giants hope he is dominating A-ball in three years, and yet, he’s the the kind of prospect that allows them to dream for so much more. 

“If he grew up in Southern California (instead of Puerto Rico) we never would have had a shot at drafting him,” one team official said Tuesday.

Ramos certainly opened eyes in his second trip to AT&T Park, but then again, he put on a display the first time, too. The Giants brought him in for a pre-draft workout and someone pointed out to Ramos that the deepest part of the park was 421 feet. The right-handed hitter, making the transition to a wood bat, wasn’t bothered by the dimensions. He took aim at Triples Alley and tried to blast one out, and he nearly did. Then he started pulling the ball, peppering the left field bleachers with homers and convincing the front office that he was the right pick at No. 19 in this month’s draft. Ramos, described as a potential five-tool center fielder, said he enjoys hitting here.

“It’s a park with a lot of history, and I like that,” he said. 

The clock on his career starts this weekend. Ramos will travel back to Arizona and play in a rookie league game Friday or Saturday. It is always a slow progression for a high school draft pick, but the Giants believe Ramos is physically mature enough to jump right in with both feet. 

Ramos, who said his favorite player is Andrew McCutchen, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and he carries it well. One member of the front office compared his body type to Yasiel Puig as a rookie; another called him a “mini-Cespedes.” Bruce Bochy lit up when asked about the physicality of the organization’s latest top pick. 

“Any time you get a young kid like this, the ceiling is so high,” he said. “That excites you.”

Bochy spent some time with Ramos and his family after batting practice. As they posed for photos, the manager looked out at the field and then turned to a PR representative.

“Can he take BP? Put him in the last group,” Bochy said, smiling. “I’ll put him in the lineup tomorrow.”

Ramos didn’t end up taking swings, but if all goes according to his plan, it won’t be long.