SAN FRANCISCO I have no idea if St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday is a dirty player.
He says he's not, his teammates say he's not and no one on the Giants would say he is.
When Holliday slammed into Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro it was a game-changer for Monday's contest won by the Giants and for the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
When Marco Scutaro got up off the deck, so did the Giants.
When Scutaro kept playing after an entire stadium thought Holliday trashed his left leg, the Giants started playing to win.
A 7-1 victory over St. Louis on Monday to even the National League Championship Series 1-1 cannot be underestimated.
If the Giants are to win four NLCS games from this ruthless Cardinals team, they must match the unmatched emotion the Cardinals have shown to get to this place they have no right to be.
These Cardinals have already pulled off the greatest elimination game comeback in postseason history last Friday by erasing a six-run deficit to vanquish the young Washington Nationals.
Crush the body of a much smaller player? Why should that behavior be surprising in this team?
They play to win, and since last year, they don't lose when they have to win come what may.
Holliday was attempting to break up a double play in the first inning, but he nearly broke Scutaro's lower limbs while going hard into second base.
In real time, Holliday's slide seemed dodgy. In replays, it looked reckless.
The truth is, it was reckless and clumsy. It was one of those plays that are technically legal, yet aggressive to the point of angering opponents.
This was also the kind of play that triggers one of the most pointless discussions that can be had in baseball is the perpetrator a dirty player?
It was the same story when Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins broke Buster Posey's ankle in a violent plate collision last year.
On Monday, Giants Nation had a collective flashback. In 2011, Posey didn't get up, and the Giants didn't make the playoffs. The organization was roundly slammed for expressing anger at the fate of Posey and plenty of sports pundits piled on.
I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. What should have been a discussion about on-field ethics became a tedious exercise in defending the toughness of the game and a player.
A game that has evolved with technology and math-based metrics can still be so backward.
So a player can be reckless, dumb and show incredibly poor judgment as Cousins did when he ignored some room to slide and blew up Posey instead but it's excused because he was playing hard?
Holliday wasn't as reckless, but he slid late it was right on the edge.
Luckily, Scutaro got up and played and even got a clutch two-RBI hit that Holliday mishandled, allowing an extra run to score.
"Baseball gods," said Will Clark, the old Giant, with a wicked smile on his face.
Scutaro will get an MRI today. We'll see what happens.
But for a night, the Giants did match the Cardinals' emotion. They turned their anger toward their opponents, though some refused to admit they were angry.
Giants leadoff hitter Angel Pagan answered right back with a home run in the first inning to give the Giants their first lead in a home playoff game this October.
Brandon Belt got big hits and made a great running catch in a remote and tricky spot in foul territory.
Starter Ryan Vogelsong gave the Giants their first quality start this postseason.
"When Scutaro got up, that fired us up," Belt said.
Said Clark: "I think it's good when you put some more emotion into a series."
It's not only good; it's essential to win this series. The Giants hope Scutaro will be fit to finish this series. And we all should hope these two teams will thrill us without crossing a line that everyone would regret.