San Francisco Giants

S.F. looks for knockout punch after another win

Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco scores on Buster Posey's hit in the pivotal sixth inning of Wednesday’s Game 4 of the NLCS.
Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco scores on Buster Posey's hit in the pivotal sixth inning of Wednesday’s Game 4 of the NLCS. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

When third-base coach Tim Flannery said Tuesday that the Giants have proven, “We can score without hits,” it implied they must be doing something right to push those runs across. Whether it goes by “fundamentals” or “the little things,” the Giants again did them better than the Cardinals in a pivotal sixth inning Wednesday, and they’re one win away from the World Series as a result.

The Giants scored the game-tying and go-ahead runs of their 6-4 win in Game 4 without needing a hit, using savvy baserunning to take advantage of two poor throws by St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams. They seized a 3-1 advantage in the series, and will send their ace Madison Bumgarner to the mound today with a chance to clinch their third National League pennant in five seasons.

Their latest unorthodox rally began with Cardinals reliever Marco Gonzales walking Juan Perez to start the sixth. Brandon Crawford singled and Matt Duffy advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Gregor Blanco then hit a chopper to Adams, who charged the ball but made a low throw home as Perez, who broke quickly for the plate, dove across to tie the score at 4-4.

Crawford took third on the play, and Joe Panik followed by hitting what might have been an inning-ending double-play grounder to Adams. But Adams stepped on first base and made a wide throw to second that left shortstop Jhonny Peralta no chance at tagging out Blanco, while Crawford sprinted home with the go-ahead run.

Crawford said he and Flannery had talked before the play about what to do on a hard-hit ball to Adams. If Adams looked his way, Crawford said he was to retreat to third, but if Adams threw immediately to second, Crawford was to break for home.

“I had shuffled down probably close to halfway, and when I saw him turn toward second, I kept going,” Crawford said.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Adams made the right play by stepping on first to get one out, but, “He’s just got to check home at that point.”

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said on that play, “It’s just wherever the ball takes you sometimes – a lot of times you don’t have much time to react.” But he credited Crawford for his reaction.

“I think everybody’s baserunning, that’s huge for us,” Belt said. “Especially since we’re not necessarily hitting the long ball right now, we’ve got to do all the small things right, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

After Panik’s at-bat, Buster Posey lined a single to left-center that scored Blanco, one of three RBIs for the Giants’ catcher. Still, the Giants in this series have scored eight of their 18 runs on plays that did not involve a hit. They’ve scored two runs on errors, two on sacrifice flies, three on infield outs and one on a wild pitch.

“You try to put pressure on the other club, and that’s how it happens,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We didn’t hit the ball hard, but we had some speed out there to find a way to get a run across the board.”

The Giants clawed back from an early 4-1 deficit after a rough outing by starter Ryan Vogelsong, who after seven batters had already allowed more runs – two – than in any of his previous five playoff starts.

Vogelsong allowed RBI singles by Adams in the first inning and A.J. Pierzynski in the second, and departed after two more scored in the third when Peralta grounded into a double play with two runners on and Kolten Wong hit a solo home run, his fifth extra-base hit of the series.

Vogelsong’s three innings marked the Giants’ shortest postseason start since Barry Zito’s 22/3-inning outing in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS. The right-hander said he watched the rest of the game sitting at his locker, dressed in his uniform – and saw the Giants’ bullpen deliver six scoreless innings in his wake.

It began with Yusmeiro Petit, who continued his stellar work in long relief these playoffs by stabilizing innings four through six. In his first appearance since throwing six shutout innings in the Giants’ 18-inning win in Game 2 of the NLDS, Petit allowed only a Matt Holliday single and a walk in three innings, striking out four.

That allowed Bochy to save his bullpen for late matchups. Bochy used three relievers in the seventh, bringing in Javier Lopez with two on and two out to face Adams, who grounded out. Sergio Romo threw a scoreless eighth that included retiring Wong – who hit a walk-off homer against Romo in Game 2 – on a comebacker.

Santiago Casilla allowed a two-out single to Jon Jay in the ninth but struck out Holliday looking to bring the Giants within one win of their third World Series in five seasons.

“I don’t think it needs to be said in here; we’ve been through it before on the other side,” said Crawford, referring to the Giants rallying from a 3-1 NLCS deficit against St. Louis in 2012.

“They’re very similar to us, they never quit and keep on battling.”

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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