|Matt Holliday on The Slide: 'In hindsight, I wish I had started my slide a step earlier.' (US Presswire)|
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Slide came with no warning and no waiting. Crash landing, four batters into the game, just like that and away they went.
Bruce Bochy, livid, called it illegal. Buster Posey and many other Giants called it late. Former Giant Will Clark called it very late. The Cardinals' Matt Holliday said he wished he would have started it one step sooner.
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Marco Scutaro wasn't around to voice his opinion. X-rays negative but questions remaining, he left AT&T Park for an off-site MRI exam of his left hip.
So don't call this series even, not yet, despite the Giants knocking off the Cardinals 7-1 to square this NL Championship Series at one game apiece.
Oh, the Giants were desperate to get even, given the energy they burned in storming back last round against the Reds.
"We didn't want to start 0-2 again," Posey said. "It was definitely nice to get this one."
But they are not even, not really. Because in winning a game they badly needed, the Giants lost a second baseman they badly need.
"He's been unbelievable," Posey said of Scutaro. "I don't know his numbers, exactly. But it's been ridiculous."
This is how ridiculous: Scutaro batted .400 with 43 RBI with runners in scoring position after the Giants acquired him from Colorado on July 27.
"He puts the ball in play," Posey continued. "He puts pressure on the pitcher, every time."
What this series has every chance of being remembered for, however, is for the pressure the hulking Holliday put on Scutaro.
And the Giants will not be even in this series until their second baseman is back in the lineup, and late Monday night they still had no idea whether it will be for Game 3, Game 4 or beyond.
"I really think they got away with an illegal slide there," Bochy said. "That rule was changed awhile back. And [Holliday] really didn't hit the dirt until he was past the bag.
"Marco was behind the bag and got smoked."
Next, Allen Craig bounced a ball to shortstop, and Brandon Crawford threw to Scutaro for one out but here came Holliday like a thundering rhinoceros. At 6-4, 235 pounds, Holliday is more middle linebacker than left fielder. And once, he came close to playing the part: He bypassed a scholarship offer from Oklahoma State to play quarterback, instead signing with the Rockies.
Scutaro took the throw and stepped behind the bag as he moved to toss to first to complete the double play.
Holliday waited until just about the time he was at the bag to roar into a hard takeout slide. He barreled into Scutaro on the left-field side of second base.
"He went right over the top of the bag, very late," said Clark, who was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and is in uniform as a special instructor for the club. "There was no attempt to slide into the bag at all.
"He was past the bag."
It was the kind of hardball that once would have led to mayhem. But the Giants made no attempt to throw at Holliday during any of his subsequent plate appearances, or even brush him back. Wins are far more important than machismo in October, especially knowing that 17 of the 19 previous times a club went down 0-2 in NLCS play, that club quietly went home for the winter.
These two clubs, by the way, have tangled over this sort of thing before. Specifically, in the 1980s. The Cardinals and Giants brawled in '86 when San Francisco thought Vince Coleman was out of line for swiping second base with a 10-2 lead, and then St. Louis beat the San Francisco in a seven-game NLCS in 1987 featuring Jeffrey Leonard's "One Flap Down" home run trot that angered the Cards enough that Bob Forsch drilled Leonard in the rear end in Game 4.
The next summer, in July, Clark slid far away from second base to take out current Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo, and another benches-clearing episode was under way.
"I was a little late," Clark admitted of his 1988 slide. "But it was before the bag and we made contact over the top of the bag."
Holliday, Clark said, "made no attempt to slide into the bag at all. He was past the bag."
Holliday admitted as much, saying, "In hindsight, I wish I had started my slide a step earlier."
He chatted briefly with Posey during one of his later plate appearances, inquiring about Scutaro's health after the second baseman had departed in the sixth.
"Holliday is a great guy," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "I think he just lost track of where he was."
In other words, same thing that's apparently happened to San Francisco's starters. A town known as much for its starting pitching as its sourdough bread, San Francisco's postseason so far has been the complete opposite of 2010.
Then, the Giants rode Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Co. to the World Series title. This October, none of their starters had lasted even six innings in any of the first six games. And in three home games, the Giants had not held a lead in 27 innings.
Which is why what Vogelsong did was so vital as Scutaro's hip worsened and the emotions simmered.
Instead of things blowing up on them, Vogelsong kept the Cards to one run and four hits over seven innings. He only had two 1-2-3 innings within those, but he battled enough in the other five to keep things under control.
"Great stuff," Bochy said. "Great command."
Thanks to Angel Pagan's first-inning homer against Chris Carpenter, it was 1-1 into the fourth. Then Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford squibbed a ball down the first-base line that eked out a run to make it 2-1.
And then the Giants loaded the bases and what might turn out to be the most poetic moment of this series played out.
Scutaro broke the game open by clearing the bases, but it was in the how that was so memorable. He belted a ball into left field that would have driven in two runs ... except Holliday, of all people, overran the ball and a third run scored.
Was it simply Holliday being Holliday in the outfield?
Was he too preoccupied from knocking Scutaro into the next ZIP code earlier at second base?
"There is definitely a baseball god," Clark said. "There is a reason why he hit a double, and why Holliday boots the ball.
"The baseball gods shined right there."
That bit of wisdom confused some.
"I have a lot of beliefs," outfielder Hunter Pence said. "I don't know about baseball gods. I do believe in God. I do believe in karma. ..."
Ah, karma. As this series moves to St. Louis, who can tell what happens next?
The Giants were reluctant to show too much anger. Several of them preferred the word "frustrated" instead. But no question, they were angry.
"As they should be," Clark said.
Will they get even? Do they even plan to try and get even?
And with the series now 1-1, what, exactly, is even at this point?
"We'll see," Clark said. "To be continued, in Game 3."