The sight of Marco Scutaro on the ground in pain after getting flattened by Matt Holliday's hard takeout was just the spark the San Francisco Giants needed.
Scutaro even got into the act with his own big blow that helped the Giants end their home slide.
Scutaro hit a two-run single in San Francisco's four-run fourth inning before leaving with a hip injury and the Giants got their first home win this post-season, 7-1 over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night to tie the NL championship series at one game apiece.
"It just kind of pumps you up," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said. "When you see one of your guys go down, you always want to win the game, but it's like, 'Let's go. Let's put it on the scoreboard."'
Scutaro left after the fifth because of his damaged left hip on a play Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt was illegal. X-rays were negative, and Scutaro likely will get an MRI on Tuesday. There was no word on his future status.
"In hindsight, I wish I would have started the slide a little earlier but it happened so fast," Holliday said. "I hope he's OK, he's a good guy. I was more interested in breaking up the double play."
The series now shifts to St. Louis for three games, starting with Game 3 on Wednesday when San Francisco ace Matt Cain takes on Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals.
Things got off to a testy start when Holliday barrelled into Scutaro at second base to break up a potential double play in the first inning. The play riled up a crowd that had seen three straight losses by the Giants so far this post-season.
There was plenty to cheer all night for the Giants. Ryan Vogelsong pitched seven strong innings, Angel Pagan hit a leadoff homer to give San Francisco its first home lead this post-season, and Scutaro broke the game open with his single off Chris Carpenter.
"That shows you how tough he is," Bochy said. "I really think they got away with an illegal slide there. That rule was changed a while back. And he really didn't hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked. It's a shame somebody got hurt because of this. That's more of a roadblock."
Making Scutaro's hit even sweeter for the Giants was the fact that Holliday misplayed the ball in left field, allowing a third run to score on the error.
"There's baseball gods. There's definitely baseball gods," former Giants first baseman Will Clark said. "There's a reason why he hits a (single) and Holliday boots the ball he hit. Baseball gods shine in weird ways."
The Giants also benefited from a missed call by an umpire in the eighth inning after St. Louis centre fielder Jon Jay made a spectacular, diving catch to rob Brandon Crawford of a hit.
Jay threw toward first and the Cardinals should have gotten a double play, but first base umpire Bill Miller did not see Allen Craig tag Gregor Blanco's jersey as he raced back to first on the play.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny argued the call and the umpires huddled to discuss it, but they kept the safe call even though replays showed Craig made the tag. The Giants capitalized when Ryan Theriot hit a two-run single to make it 7-1.
"I'm not going to take a hard stance one way or another on the replay," Matheny said.
"That really wasn't the game today," he said. "But every once in a while there's a big play that does change the course of the game and I'm not against having something else to help get it right. Our guys work hard to make the right plays and execute, so we want things called fairly."
Back at Busch Stadium, Holliday will be cheered after being the target of boos all night following his aggressive play on the basepaths.
With runners on first and second and one out, Craig hit a bouncer to Crawford, and the shortstop quickly flipped to Scutaro for the forceout.
Double play pride
Holliday, a former high school football star in Oklahoma, came tumbling in and slid late into Scutaro, crushing his left leg to prevent up the double play. Scutaro lay on the ground twisting in pain while trainer Dave Groeschner and Bochy ran out of the dugout to attend to the second baseman.
"A lot of guys take pride in breaking up double plays. Holliday is one of them," Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso said. "On slowly hit balls you're going to get hit. You don't want anyone to get hurt, but I'm all for playing the game hard."
Vogelsong got out of the jam by retiring Yadier Molina on a groundout.
"I just really was trying to make the next pitch to get the guy out so we could get him in the dugout," Vogelsong said.
Scutaro stayed in the game with a limp until being replaced in the sixth by Theriot. By then, he had done his damage with the bat in the big fourth inning.
The rally started innocently enough with a bloop, opposite field double by Brandon Belt and a chopper over third baseman David Freese by Blanco. Crawford then hit a bouncer between the mound and first base that Carpenter fielded and threw away toward first base. It appeared Crawford may have impeded Carpenter by running inside the baseline but the Cardinals did not argue the play.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Scutaro lined his single to left-centre that Holliday misplayed to the delight of Giants fans, putting Carpenter and the Cardinals into a 5-1 hole.
"He's a clutch hitter, he always has been, I know that since he's been over here," Carpenter said. "He's not going to miss those opportunities."
Vogelsong made the lead hold up by becoming the first Giants starter to make it through six innings this post-season. He allowed four hits and one run for his first career post-season win.
These teams have a history of contentious meetings in the NLCS from Jeffrey Leonard's one-flap down home run trot in 1987 that riled up the Cardinals to a benches-clearing dustup 10 years ago when St. Louis reliever Mike Crudale buzzed Kenny Lofton after he showboated on a home run.
San Francisco answered with the bats this time as Pagan led off the bottom of the first with a homer — matching his feat from Game 4 of the division series against Cincinnati. The Giants had been outscored 20-6 and never led in two home losses to the Reds and the Game 1 defeat to the Cardinals.
Pagan's shot came soon after Scutaro was wiped out.
"We felt for him," Pagan said. "We felt a little bit of anger. I haven't seen the replay, so I can't judge if it was dirty or not. Any time you see a teammate fall down like that, you really feel for him."
The Cardinals tied it in the second inning when Pete Kozma drew a two-out walk and scored on Carpenter's RBI double, his third hit already this post-season.
But Carpenter, making his fifth appearance in 2012 after complicated surgery to remove a rib and two neck muscles, wasn't nearly as sharp on the mound or in the field. He allowed five runs — two earned — and six hits in four innings, failing to add to his 10 career post-season wins.