Giants answer loss, Yankees hope to do same

Giants answer loss, Yankees hope to do same

Giants answer loss, Yankees hope to do same
With the past two World Series champions meeting in the National League Championship Series for the first time in postseason history, it's little wonder the Giants and the Cardinals are squaring off like two teams determined to earn another title bout.

In Game 2, there was an opening salvo, and a counterpunch. A hit some considered below the belt, and a gutty response by the offended party. A postseason titan toppled, its counterpart rising to the occasion.

"Just another game where two teams went at it hard," Giants right fielder Hunter Pence would say after his team's 7-1 victory at AT&T Park on Monday night.

NLCS

By dispatching Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter after four innings and rolling onward to victory behind right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants evened the NLCS at a game apiece -- perhaps giving hope to another team in another series, a Yankees club up against the ropes and facing a big, bad ace.

In Detroit, the Yankees will try to battle out of a corner against one of the most dominant forces in the game Tuesday, facing Justin Verlander with the Tigers holding a 2-0 advantage in the American League Championship Series and three home games on tap.

That puts the Yankees on the defensive a little bit, and we'll find out starting Tuesday how they're going to respond.

"At the end of the day you don't go out in the field saying, 'Well, I am an underdog so I will shock the world,'" first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I don't think it would be shocking if the Yankees came back and won this series."

While the Tigers will host the Yankees and right-hander Phil Hughes in Game 3 at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday on TBS, the Giants and Cardinals will go to their respective corners and head to St. Louis for a workout day before Game 3, which will pit the Giants' Matt Cain against the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse in a 4 p.m. ET start Wednesday.

ALCS

And so it is that this postseason final four with few peers continues toward its pinnacle event, the World Series. Only twice before has the LCS round featured the past three franchises to win the World Series, in 1973 and '74. In '73, the Reds didn't have a title yet, but lost the World Series the year before, putting that foursome a step ahead of this one, since the Tigers' 2011 run ended in the ALCS against Texas.

If Monday's response by the 2010 World Series champion Giants against the 2011 champion Cardinals tells the 2009 champion Yankees anything, it's that there's no time like the present to throw a good counterpunch.

After dropping the opener the night before, the Giants got in the first shot on Carpenter, with Angel Pagan contributing a second leadoff homer this postseason to match the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins as the only players to hit a pair in a single offseason.

Already, the tenor of the game had been established in the top of the first on a hard slide into second by Matt Holliday that knocked Marco Scutaro down -- but not out, at least not until later. The veteran second baseman delivered a two-run single in a decisive fourth inning, pushing a third run across when Holliday didn't handle the ground ball cleanly.

"In my opinion, it pumped us up a little bit," Pence said of the slide and Scutaro's gutty response to it.

On the play in the first, Holliday didn't start his slide until he got to the bag, then rolled over and on top of Scutaro's left leg. Scutaro sustained a left hip injury and exited in the sixth inning, leaving his status for Game 3 unknown.

"In hindsight, I wish I'd started my slide a step earlier," Holliday said. "But it's happening fast, and you're trying to get to his lower half so he can't turn the double play."

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: "I really think they got away with an illegal slide there. That rule was changed a while back, and he really didn't hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked."

One thing everybody could agree upon was that Vogelsong stepped up and delivered for the Giants, even adding a leadoff double in the sixth inning before exiting with San Francisco's first quality start of the postseason -- one run on four hits in seven innings.

With it, a home team won its first game of the LCS round, and the Giants avoided the first four-game postseason home losing streak in their long history. But the road squads remain on a record pace in 2012: Including the Wild Card playoff games, visiting teams have won 16 and home teams 10 so far, a .615 winning percentage for the guys in gray.

For the ALCS to flip around at this point, it's going to take some victories for the road team -- the Yankees.

In Detroit now after the Tigers took both games in the Bronx, the teams got their first true day off of the postseason -- no travel, no workouts, just a few conference calls with the media. Also, Yankees manager Joe Girardi took the day to attend his father's funeral before heading to Detroit for Game 3.

The Yankees know they have a huge obstacle in their path in Verlander, who allowed just one run in 16 innings against the A's in the Division Series.

"When things are going bad, they can really go bad, but when they are going good, we are capable of putting up a lot of runs, and that's what we are hoping for [Tuesday]," Teixeira said.

Verlander faced the Yankees three times this year in the regular season, going 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA, splitting his decisions at home and taking a no-decision on the road.

"Obviously everybody in the lineup is a challenge, but I think when it comes to postseason baseball you can kind of write off past history," Verlander said. "I think I am a different pitcher than I am in the regular season, and you start with a clean slate."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.