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Giants defeat Cardinals to force Game 7

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong struck out a career-best nine batters in another strong postseason performance as the San Francisco Giants forced a decisive Game 7 in the National League championship series with a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

Marco Scutaro hit a two-run double and Buster Posey drove in his first run of the series with a groundout in the first inning as San Francisco struck early to support Vogelsong.

San Francisco's Matt Cain and St. Louis' Kyle Lohse are set to pitch in a rematch of Game 3, won by the Cardinals. There's a forecast of rain in the Bay Area during the day.

“This place is going to be loud, I can tell you that,” Vogelsong said.

These wild-card Cardinals sure seem to like the all-or-nothing route in October, while San Francisco thrives playing from behind.

Five games with their year on the line, five wins for these gutsy Giants this postseason. Now, it comes down to one game for the past two World Series champions to get back, with the Detroit Tigers waiting.

Pitching to chants of “Vogey! Vogey!” from the sellout crowd of 43,070 at AT&T Park, the right-hander didn't allow a hit until Daniel Descalso's broken-bat single to center with two outs in the fifth. Vogelsong struck out the side in the first and had already fanned five through two innings.

Scutaro had no chance for a collision with Matt Holliday this time. In their first game back at AT&T Park since Holliday took out the second baseman with a hard slide in Game 2, Holliday was scratched about an hour before first pitch because of tightness in his lower back, and Allen Craig replaced him in left field.

It hardly mattered the way Vogelsong pitched.

The Cardinals managed their only run on Craig's two-out single in the sixth. St. Louis had gone 15 innings without scoring after left-hander Barry Zito won 5-0 on Friday in Game 5.

“I just tried to do really the same thing he did, come out and set the tone early for us,” Vogelsong said.

Vogelsong had his second stellar seven-inning outing against the Cardinals in a week, allowing four hits and one run in seven innings. He walked one in a 102-pitch performance and lowered his postseason ERA — all this year — to 1.42.

“I just believe that it's my time,” Vogelsong said.

After taking a 3-1 lead back home at Busch Stadium, Mike Matheny's Cardinals will have to find some offense in a hurry if they want to get back to the World Series.

These Cards might just prefer close calls. Just like last year.

They won the NL's second wild card on the second-to-last day of the regular season, then won at Atlanta to reach the division series. The Cardinals rallied from a 6-0 deficit with a four-run ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals 9-7 in Game 5 of the division series.

The Giants got to St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter again. The Cardinals most successful postseason pitcher with 10 victories looked out of sync for the second straight start — and he left with a nearly identical line as in his 7-1 Game 2 loss here last Monday, down to the hits, earned runs, unearned runs and innings.

Carpenter was done in by one big inning this time, too. He allowed six hits and five runs, two earned, in four innings.

Vogelsong reached on shortstop Pete Kozma's fielding error in the second, scoring Brandon Belt after he led off the inning with a triple. Scutaro came up two batters later and doubled home two more runs.

The 10 unearned runs allowed by the Cardinals are the most in an NLCS, according to STATS, LLC — topping the nine given up by the Braves in 2001 and Dodgers in 1985.

San Francisco never faced an elimination game in 2010 on the way to winning the World Series, but has had to go the distance in each of its first two postseason series this year. They became the first team in major league history to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five series by winning three straight on the road as they did at Cincinnati.

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St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, left, reacts after allowing a lead-off triple to San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt, background right, in the second inning during Game 6 of the National League championship baseball series in San Francisco, Sunday. (AP)



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