Let's get The Slide out of the way first. Yes, it was wrong. I've played ball for a few decades, and everyone knows it's a no-no to slide well out of the basepath or beyond the base to go after an infielder. You have to at least pretend that the final destination of some part of your body is second base. To take out Marco Scutaro, Matt Holliday didn't hit the ground until he had passed
second base, that's how egregious it was.
But with malice aforethought? I've also played ball enough to understand that in the heat of that particular moment, chugging into second, with visions of breaking up two dancing in one's head, the body is sometimes a homing device. Heat seeks heat. The Giants understand. The Cards understand. Here's Lance Berkman:
"If they take exception to it we really can't say anything because it was past the bag, even though I don't think he had any intention of hurting Scutaro," Berkman said.
Everyone is basically on the same page: Holliday slid late, he shouldn't have, and he meant no harm. The real culprit in the situation was the umpiring crew that didn't call the batter running to first -- I think it was Allen Craig -- automatically out as a penalty for Holliday's illegal slide.
7.09 It is interference by a batter or a runner when--
(f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
The emotion of it -- and Scutaro's subsequent game-breaking, bases-clearing single, aided wouldn't you know by Holliday's error -- makes a great story line. Especially because Scutaro hit the single with some kind of hip injury to be determined, though not a fracture, apparently, at least as of midnight as I'm writing this. But Holliday is no Snively Whiplatos. He's a convenient straw man for the fans to rally against, but the players get it: No villain, just hero, as in Scutaro getting up and doing his own take-out of the Cardinals' hopes in this game.
With all that, though, the best quote of the night was the "Ouch" we kept hearing from the Cardinals as a results of the 92-MPH fastballs pounding their thumbs. Ryan Vogelsong has now delivered two of the most important starts in a Giant uniform that we've seen since Tim Lincecum's opening 14-K salvo of the 2010 playoffs. And I think this game against St. Louis ranks higher than the series-changer in Cincy, though I'm not quite sure why. Gregor Blanco agrees with me, with a quote something to the effect of "most important game of the year" in his post-game interview. (Sorry, I can't find a written reference. Help me out.) Certainly going seven innings is more impressive than five, and the surgery of it was beautiful like Brazilian soccer or an Olympic 4X400 relay team: fastballs at the knees, outside corner, then fastballs on the hands, with a few curves and change-ups mixed in. Really, though, no need to split hairs between Monday night and last week in Cincinnati. Vogelsong has contributed stunning chapters to what is fast becoming an epic post-season novel. Welcome home, Vogey.
As they did in their string of wins in Cincy, the Giants received a small crack of opportunity from their opponents and drove a wedge through it. Monday night, it was Chris Carpenter's errant throw to first on Brandon Crawford's nubber in front of home plate in the fourth. Racing home from third with a great baserunning read, Brandon Belt was going to score the Giants' second run, no matter what, but the error allowed Vogelsong to bunt and ultimately led to Scutaro's hit. Credit Vogey for the two-strike bunt, Pagan for laying off a few teaser pitches to draw a walk, and of course Scutaro for not missing a very hittable pitch.
Let's hope Scutaro mends quickly and can play when the series resumes Wednesday, but if he can't, it'll be interesting to see what Bochy does. We're all assuming Ryan Theriot will slot in, as he did mid-game Monday, but remember, Joaquin Arias can play second base, too. And he's shown in these playoffs a knack for making loud contact against righties, not just lefties.
I can imagine something like this: Blanco moving up to hit second and Arias (or Theriot) hitting seventh or eighth. There could be some clamor for Brandon Belt to hit second, but my guess is Bochy doesn't want to give Belt too much to think about. Hitting second is weird: Do I take pitches to let Pagan steal? Do I swing? Do I try to pull through the hole? I think Belt could handle it, and he might be their best option there next year. (And don't tell me that he's not a classic #2 type -- have you seen who's hitting second for St. Louis?) But trying it now might be a bit much.
Even with the Scutaro situation, I'm optimistic heading into the off-day. Vogelsong has lit the lamp of optimism to cut through the rotation's gloaming. Man, just a couple more of those from Messrs. Cain, Lincecum, and perhaps Vogey again, and the path to the World Series is illuminated. That makes no sense, of course. What Ryan Vogelsong does has no bearing two, three or four days later on the performance of his rotation mates. They're not suddenly drinking Vogeyjuice. (Don't ask.) But as someone once said about five paragraphs ago, the emotion of it makes a great story line. And sometimes great story lines happen to come true.