SAN FRANCISCO Ryan Vogelsong, who goes into an ornery self-imposed silence on days he pitches, so that one is left to guess what's behind the stone face, made his intentions known early Sunday.
The right-hander came out pumping fastballs, 12 in a row, and after painting one on the corner to end the first inning, Vogelsong stalked toward the dugout, shoulders squared, head down.
In a grander sense, Vogelsong's duty in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series was to get the ball to Matt Cain for Game 7. He did it by bulling through seven innings in the Giants' 6-1 win over St. Louis, asserting his own stature in these playoffs and whittling this series down to one winner-take-all game.
It will be Cain against the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse in Game 7, a date with the Detroit Tigers in the World Series on the line.
"One win away from the World Series, pretty close to that," said closer Sergio Romo, who sealed the win with a scoreless ninth. "What a feeling it was for us before, those of us who were on that team before in 2010.
"Yeah, I want to get to that feeling. I want to get there again."
The Giants won for the fifth time this postseason when facing elimination. Today, in the first Game 7 in San Francisco in 50 years, they will try to become just the fifth N.L. team to fall behind 3-1 in a best-of-seven playoff series and come back to win.
"We had to fight hard to be in this position," said catcher Buster Posey. "As good as it is to win these two games, we know it's not done yet."
In three postseason starts, Vogelsong has allowed three runs over 19 innings and struck out 18. He departed Game 6 with a line nearly identical to the one he posted in Game 2 seven innings, four hits and one run allowed. The difference Sunday was his nine strikeouts, a career high.
Vogelsong struck out the side in the first, getting leadoff man Jon Jay swinging on a 94-mph fastball and freezing Allen Craig on a two-seamer at 93 mph.
Asked where the extra oomph came from, Vogelsong said, "The environment. The fans. They were into it early, and the adrenaline is going, and it puts miles per hour on your fastball."
It became clear early, Posey said, that Vogelsong was commanding the fastball on both sides of the plate. He struck out six of the first nine hitters he faced and didn't allow a hit until Daniel Descalso's broken-bat liner with two outs in the fifth.
"It was electric, there's no doubt about it," Posey said.
The Cardinals finally snapped a 15-inning scoring drought in the sixth, when Carlos Beltran doubled and scored on Craig's single. That was all Vogelsong allowed.
The announced crowd of 43,070 seemed to sense what was coming as the Giants jumped ahead in the first against Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, who lost twice to Vogelsong in the series.
Marco Scutaro drew a walk, and Pablo Sandoval doubled over Jay in center. Posey then hit a chopper to third. David Freese appeared to have a play at home on Scutaro but couldn't find a grip on the ball, and he settled for the out at first.
Scutaro added two hits, including a two-run double in the Giants' four-run second inning, and is hitting .458 (11 for 24) in the series.
Again, the Giants made a big inning out of a Cardinals error. In the second, shortstop Pete Kozma couldn't handle a slow chopper off Vogelsong's bat with runners on first and third and one out, letting one run in.
Two batters later, Scutaro delivered the two-out double. Sandoval then singled to drive in Scutaro for his team-leading eighth RBI of the postseason.
"I was looking for the oxygen," quipped Vogelsong, who scored from first on Scutaro's double. "But to have a cushion like that early definitely allows you to attack the plate a little more, especially with the offense they have over there."
The Giants now must win a sixth elimination game if they are to extend their season. It has been done before once by the 1985 Kansas City Royals. And. of course, the Cardinals were down to their last strike in the division series in Washington.
"You could've probably predicted it before the series started," said first baseman Brandon Belt. "Neither of us give up."