SAN FRANCISCO — Baseball finds you. The game might take its time, poke around, look under rocks. But violate it, and wait, because here it comes. There’s no telling when or how. Just trust that it will.
So it was Monday night, when Marco Scutaro, the San Francisco Giants second baseman, came to the plate in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Three innings earlier, Scutaro writhed on the ground in pain, and not a soul at AT&T Park would have been stunned if he had been unable to get up.
The man who put Scutaro to the dirt, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday, stood in left field as Scutaro came up in the fourth. Holliday outweighs Scutaro by 50 pounds. He outhits him and outearns him. But Monday night, the game found Holliday, and Scutaro outdid him.
Scutaro’s bases-loaded single in the fourth drove in two runs, and when Holliday booted the ball in left, another came around to put the Giants firmly ahead. There, then, was the crucial moment that spurred San Francisco to a 7-1 victory that evened the series at a game apiece as it shifts to St. Louis for Games 3, 4 and 5.
“There’s definitely baseball gods,” former Giants great Will Clark said in a buoyant home clubhouse afterward. “There’s reasons why he got a [hit] and Holliday booted the ball. There just are.”
There were other elements to the Giants’ win, and right-hander Ryan Vogelsong’s seven-inning, four-hit effort that settled what has been an unstable starting rotation had the most significant impact on the outcome. Angel Pagan led off the game with a home run against veteran Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, who lasted only four innings. San Francisco won for the first time in four postseason games at home.
But the incidents involving Scutaro and Holliday — which consisted of, depending on your point of view, a hard baseball play or dirty pool, followed by coincidence or karma — defined the game. Scutaro eventually departed after five innings with a left hip injury. X-rays taken Monday night were negative, San Francisco Manager Bruce Bochy said, but Scutaro’s status for Wednesday’s Game 3 is uncertain.
“It’s a scary moment,” Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said.
It happened early. In the top of the first, St. Louis’s Carlos Beltran drew a one-out walk, and Holliday followed with a single. Cleanup hitter Allen Craig then bounced a ball to shortstop, where San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford fielded it cleanly.
Crawford threw to Scutaro, covering the bag, for the force. And here came Holliday, all 235 pounds of him. He slid late and hard, almost jumping on the base, then barreling into Scutaro’s left leg. Scutaro threw to first, then crumpled to the ground as Holliday crashed under him.
“I really think they got away with an illegal slide there,” Bochy said. “. . . He really didn’t hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked.”
Holliday hopped up, looked at Scutaro’s 185-pound frame in the dirt, and headed to the dugout.
“You’re trying to get to the second baseman and obviously try to knock him down so he can’t turn a double play,” Holliday said. “As long as you’re in the base line, it’s within the rules.”
Scutaro, for the time being, stayed in the game. The crowd of 42,679 booed Holliday then, and in each of his remaining at-bats. The question became: Would the Giants retaliate, and how?
“To be continued,” Clark said, smiling.
For Monday, they left the retaliation to baseball itself. With the score tied at 1 in the fourth, the Giants got to Carpenter. With runners at the corners and one out, Crawford hit a high chopper in front of the plate that Carpenter fielded, but he threw errantly to first base. Brandon Belt scored to give the Giants the lead, and after Vogelsong bunted the runners up, Pagan drew the walk that loaded the bases.
Scutaro then came up. Acquired in a July trade with Colorado, he hit .362 in 61 regular season games with the Giants. For his career, he is a .321 hitter with the bases loaded. He took a strike from Carpenter, then a ball. Carpenter came back with a sinker, and Scutaro shot it on a line to left, Holliday’s turf.
“Marco,” veteran reserve Aubrey Huff said, “got a little revenge.”
Holliday — who has not won, and never will win, a Gold Glove — moved to his left to get in front of the ball, and it simply skipped through him. That allowed Pagan to score all the way from first, and it gave the Giants a pad run, putting them up 5-1, more than Vogelsong needed.
In the eighth, Holliday was in the center of things — or near it, at least — when he casually went after a ball Huff hit over third baseman David Freese’s head. It dropped for a single, part of the Giants’ final rally that ended with a two-run single from Ryan Theriot, Scutaro’s replacement.
A final bit of justice? “I don’t think Holliday was trying to hurt him,” Affeldt said, and that seemed to be the consensus in the San Francisco clubhouse. Still, the game found him. It found Scutaro. And because it did, San Francisco tied the series.