“What a ride for him,” Giants closer Sergio Romo said. “Ups and downs. I’m very proud of that man, very proud to know him. . . . I don’t know if I would’ve had the strength that he had to go through the things that he’s been through.”
Had Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ veteran right-hander who lasted just four innings Sunday, turned in that performance, it would have added to a legacy forged in Octobers past. For Vogelsong, this is it, his first postseason, a dozen years and 10 professional teams in the making. He not only spent time in the minors, but he spent time in the Japanese minors.
“He’s learned how to fail; he’s learned how to succeed,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “. . . He’s been preparing for this game his whole life.”
How could he have been prepared for Sunday, chants of “Vog-ey! Vog-ey!” ringing through AT&T Park? What he provided everyone: A winner’s-in-the-World Series, loser-goes-home Game 7 between teams who don’t lose games like they’ll face Monday night. The Giants’ victory Sunday was their fifth this postseason that, had they lost, would have ended their season. Since they faced elimination after Game 4 of this series, they have outscored the Cardinals, 11-1.
“Doing it alone is impossible,” Romo said. “Everybody here wearing this uniform, everyone’s pulling on the same rope at the same time.” He broke into a smile. “I really don’t want to go home! That’s really the mind-set.”
But the Cardinals, over two postseasons, have been perhaps more resilient. Dating from the 2011 division series against Philadelphia, they have won six straight elimination games. In two of them they were twice down to their last strike.
“Unfortunately, we don’t win until we absolutely need to,” said right-hander Kyle Lohse, who will start Game 7 for St. Louis.
So who to pick here? The Giants will go with their stud, Matt Cain, who went 16-5 during the regular season. The Cardinals chose Lohse to pitch the most crucial games this postseason. The two produced the best-pitched game of this series, a 3-1 Cardinals victory in Game 3.
So flip a coin. But if either pitches like Vogelsong did Sunday, he’ll have the edge. His first time through the order, Vogelsong struck out six Cardinals. By the fourth inning, he had matched his career high with seven punch-outs. With two outs in the fifth, he hadn’t allowed a hit, and when he did, it was Daniel Descalso’s broken-bat flare.