SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortstop Brandon Crawford insisted nothing needs to be said in the clubhouse to keep the Giants from getting ahead of themselves with a 3-1 lead in the N.L. Championship Series.
"We’ve been through it before on the other side," Crawford said after the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Cardinals on Wednesday night, referencing how they came back from the same deficit against this same St. Louis team in the NLCS two years ago. "And they’re very similar to us. They never quit and keep on going, keep on battling."
Only one may have to wonder, at this point, how much fight the Cardinals have left. This series was supposed to match two teams that were near mirror images of each other in the way they played sound fundamental baseball and scrapped out wins. But after four games the Cardinals have lived up to that description far less consistently than the Giants, who are now one win away from their third trip to the World Series in five years.
In Game 4 it was Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams making two poor throws and the Giants capitalizing on them with some aggressive baserunning to take a lead in the sixth inning, after they’d trailed 4-1 as early as the third.
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Postseason savant Ryan Vogelsong gave up as many runs -- four -- as he had in his first five playoff starts combined. The Giants still won with six scoreless innings from their bullpen and the latest version of the by-any-means-necessary offense they’ve mounted throughout October.
The game story details that sixth inning, which Vogelsong said he watched from his locker in the clubhouse, still wearing his uniform.
"I was told a long time ago from one of my first big-league coaches that when you come out of a game, stay up here and let the guys do their job without getting in the way," Vogelsong said.
What did he see?
"It was just a matter of getting some Giants karma going," Vogelsong said. "And the boys got it done. They found a way to scrap out some runs and the bullpen locked it down."
Adams’ throws will be scrutinized, as will his decision to throw to second on Joe Panik’s potential double-play grounder instead of checking on Brandon Crawford at third base. Crawford said third base coach Tim Flannery had told him on a hard-hit ball to Adams to read the first baseman’s body: If he looked across the diamond, go back to the bag; but if Adams turned immediately to second, break for the plate.
"I had shuffled down (the baseline) probably close to halfway," Crawford said. "When I saw him turn toward second, I kept going."
Crawford said he didn’t think Adams even glanced in his direction. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Adams made the right decision to step on first base first, getting one out, but Adams "has got to check home at that point. And the runner wasn’t going."
Was Crawford surprised by Adams’ reaction?
"A little bit," Crawford admitted.
First baseman Brandon Belt said the play -- a sharp grounder with one out and runners on first and third -- can be a tricky one.
"I’m always looking to go home right there," Belt said. "But it’s just wherever the ball takes you sometimes. A lot of times you don’t have much time to react."
Belt said he thought Adams might have also had a shot at the double play by throwing to second first and getting a return throw. "But again, scenario dictates what you do," Belt said. "If there’s not a clean lane it’s hard to make that throw."
"Momentum taking you away from second base, it’s not an easy throw," agreed Panik. "You’re just hoping that he steps on the bag instead of going to second, because that’s a tougher throw. Fortunately everything worked out."
That has been a theme for the Giants lately. Things have worked out, from the wild pitch that let them tie Game 2 in the ninth inning to Randy Choate’s throwing error that ended Game 3, to Adams’ failing at one of the most fundamental aspects of the sport twice in one inning Wednesday night.
But the Giants would argue they’re helping create those events by doing little things the right way, from Matt Duffy executing a sacrifice bunt in the sixth Wednesday, to Juan Perez getting a quick break home on Gregor Blanco’s chopper to Adams to score the tying run, to Crawford making the right read on what became the decisive play.
"When you get into the postseason like this, the team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins," Belt said. "Being a fielder I know this, when you get people on base, it puts a lot of pressure on the other team, puts a lot of pressure on the opposing pitcher. That’s what we try to do."
* Bee columnist Marcos Breton wrote about the all-around night from Buster Posey, who drove in three runs with a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly. Posey does not have an extra-base hit in the postseason, but he’ll take the Giants’ current situation over the odd double. Speaking of that situation, the Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the mound in Game 5 with a chance to clinch at home, and Ailene Voisin writes that Bumgarner is the right guy for the job.
The under-the-radar hero Wednesday night was Yusmeiro Petit, who stabilized the game in the middle innings and in two postseason outings has thrown nine innings, allowed two hits and struck out 11. Tim Lincecum has yet to appear in these playoffs, but the Giants have the same kind of weapon Lincecum was two years ago right now in Petit.
* Vogelsong lasted just three innings and departed with the Giants trailing 4-1. It was not the result the right-hander wanted, but he took a little satisfaction in the fact that it could have been worse.
Vogelsong got Jhonny Peralta to ground into a pair of double plays to limit the damage in the first and third innings, and struck Jon Jay out looking to end the second with runners on first and second.
"They picked me up and turned two really big double plays there," Vogelsong said of his defense. "I was able to make a pitch on Jay and strike him out. Definitely could’ve been a lot worse."
Vogelsong admitted the obvious -- he wasn’t commanding pitches how he wanted. After coming out throwing 94 mph in his first start this postseason, he hovered more around 91 to 92 on Wednesday and said he was "trying to back down a little bit and locate the ball. I figured when I found my command I’d start letting go a little bit more, and it just never got to that point."
As a result, Vogelsong took in the final six innings as a spectator. He said he watched "every pitch" on the TV in the clubhouse. Why did he keep his uniform on?
"Man, I’ve told you that I love this time of year," he said. "It was disappointing to me not to be able to be out there and feel the energy for more than I was. And I guess I just wasn’t ready to let it go yet."
Thanks to a bit more of that "Giants karma," he may have another October start yet.
* Something interesting from the postgame interview room: Blanco was asked whether he was really thinking about bunting when he squared around against Randy Choate in the fourth inning. Choate, of course, fielded Blanco’s bunt and threw it away to give the Giants their Game 3 win -- and Blanco said that was the reason he showed Wednesday.
"I was just trying to get in his head, because yesterday I bunt the ball, and it made all the things happen," Blanco said. "So I was just trying to make him feel like I was going to bunt it again, and I think the crowd was on him, and I was just trying to make him feel uncomfortable."
Choate seemed to realize this in the moment. His second pitch to Blanco was up and in, causing Blanco to spin out of the way. Blanco, though, worked a walk.
* From the post-game notes: The Giants have scored a total of 22 runs in their last six games, and 12 have come with the batter at the time not recording a hit. As Flannery said after the walk-off error in Game 3: "We can score without hits. We’ve proven that."
Pablo Sandoval broke Barry Bonds’ Giants record by reaching base for his 22nd straight postseason game. Sandoval walked in the third inning and also singled in the sixth.
Hunter Pence also extended his streak of reaching base in the playoffs to 12 consecutive games.
Jeremy Affeldt has not allowed a run in 17 consecutive postseason appearances, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak in major-league history in terms of games. He trails Mariano Rivera (23), Chad Bradford (19) and Dennis Cook (19).
When Santiago Casilla allowed a two-out single to Jon Jay in the ninth, it snapped a run of 40 consecutive batters faced without giving up a hit for Casilla.
* They’re one win away from a date with the Royals in Kansas City next Tuesday. It’s Bumgarner against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in Game 5. First pitch at 5:07 p.m.