SAN FRANCISCO The rally started out more trickle than flow, Brandon Belt flicking a soft liner down the left-field line.
But it and an AT&T Park crowd antsy to get excited about something in these playoffs were ready to burst as Marco Scutaro walked to the plate with the bases loaded.
And Scutaro, with a crisp line drive, freed up both.
Scutaro's bases-clearing hit capped a four-run fourth inning for the Giants, while he pulled into second base favoring his left leg. Earlier, the second baseman had been on the receiving end of a hard take-out slide by the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday, who tried to break up a double play.
Rolling in pain in the dirt, Scutaro got up and stayed in long enough to deliver the key hit as the Giants won Game 2 of the National League Championship Series 7-1 Monday night.
And after losing the series opener at home, the Giants, who take pride in their resilience, bounced back behind a strong effort from Ryan Vogelsong to even the series as it moves to St. Louis for the next three games.
"Gosh, that was gutsy," catcher Buster Posey said of Scutaro's hit. "Because I know it was probably uncomfortable even before he came out of the game."
Scutaro left before the sixth inning with what the Giants termed a left hip injury. His leg buckled awkwardly on Holliday's slide in the first inning, and he stayed down for several minutes while trainers jogged out to look at him. Manager Bruce Bochy said Scutaro had X-rays after the game that came back negative, and he was due to have an MRI.
"We'll do some more tests (today) and see where he's at," Bochy said. "We're hoping for the best."
Scutaro got sorer as the game went on, Bochy said, and when he came up in the fourth, "it was bothering him quite a bit."
The Giants already had scored once in the inning on Belt's soft double and two choppers. Gregor Blanco's bounced over David Freese at third, and Brandon Crawford's was fielded by Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, whose low throw to first left everybody safe.
The Giants then loaded the bases for Scutaro, who lined Carpenter's second pitch into left field, and Angel Pagan scored from first as Holliday fumbled the ball.
"Shows you how tough (Scutaro) is," Bochy said. "I really think they got away with an illegal slide there. That rule was changed awhile back, and (Holliday) really didn't hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he hadn't seen a replay of the slide but defended his player.
"It looked like it was a hard slide," Matheny said. "It didn't go out of the baseline to get him. Once again, I haven't looked at it again, but we teach our guys to go hard play the game clean, play it hard."
Crawford summed up the reaction in the Giants' clubhouse with his own: "It was a late slide. I'm sure he wasn't trying to hurt him."
Vogelsong contributed a hard-nosed effort of his own. Staked to a 1-0 lead by Pagan's second leadoff home run this postseason, Vogelsong gave it back in the second, walking Pete Kozma after getting ahead in the count 0-2 and giving up an RBI double to Carpenter.
After Carlos Beltran doubled to lead off the third, though, Vogelsong retired eight in a row and allowed only one more hit while becoming the first Giants starter to go seven innings in the postseason.
Following the Beltran double, Vogelsong said, "Something clicked mechanically. That's really all I can tell you. I threw a pitch, and it was like, that's it, right there, that's how I want to feel. And I was just able to kind of run with that feeling."
The right-hander, who struggled mightily for a month beginning in mid-August, has been the Giants' most reliable starter in the postseason, allowing just two runs in 12 innings.
"He gave us what we needed," Bochy said. "We've been looking for a quality start, a great start. Really helped out the bullpen, and just a gutty effort."
The Giants avoided a franchise-record fourth consecutive home playoff loss, and an announced crowd of 42,679 showed its appreciation to Vogelsong as he left the mound in the seventh.
Now they go to St. Louis not needing to overcome the 2-0 deficit they faced in the division series.
"I think it's really big," Crawford said. "We did it once against Cincinnati. It's tough to do it again."