ST. LOUIS -- Barry Zito has laid down the bridge more famous today in San Francisco than even the Golden Gate -- the one leading to Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain and a genuine chance for another playoff comeback miracle.
Vogelsong, author of the National League Championship Series Game 2 outstanding start, will get another one in Game 6 on Sunday (4:30 p.m. PT, FOX) for the Giants, who clearly did not leave their heart in San Francisco. It was beating in their chest Friday night, in the 5-0 win over the Cardinals that sent the NLCS back to the Bay Area.
A remarkable late-blooming story, the 35-year-old Vogelsong had begun the Giants' comeback in the NL Division Series against the Reds, pitching the first five innings of the 2-1 win in Game 3.
Now he can continue this comeback from a 3-1 NLCS deficit, off the same AT&T mound where he had allowed the Cardinals one run in seven innings of the 7-1 win in Game 2.
Key stat: Carpenter lasted only four innings in his Game 2 start in the NLCS, allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits.
Key stat: Vogelsong was sharp in Game 2, going seven innings and surrendering just one run on four hits.
At AT&T Park
2012: N/A Career: 2 GS, 2-0, 4.26 ERA
2012: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.86 ERA Career: 33 GS, 14-11, 3.00 ERA
Against this opponent
2012: N/A Career: 8 GS, 4-1, 3.57 ERA
2012: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA Career: 6 GS, 2-4, 6.51 ERA
Loves to face: Hunter Pence: 5-for-28, 7 K Hates to face: Ryan Theriot: 7-for-15, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI
Loves to face: Yadier Molina: 3-for-14 Hates to face: Carlos Beltran: 6-for-13, 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs
Why he'll win: Though he made only two road starts this regular season, Carpenter has a career 3.99 ERA away from home .
Why he'll win: Vogelsong has been brilliant in his first career postseason, posting a 1.50 ERA over two starts.
Pitcher beware: Carpenter has yet to escape the sixth inning in his two starts this postseason.
Pitcher beware: Vogelsong was 5-7 this season when pitching with five or more days' rest, as opposed to 9-2 with four days' rest.
Bottom line: Carpenter was decent in his first two outings, though a longer, steadier start would go a long way toward clinching the series for the Cardinals.
Bottom line: For the second time in his first three postseason starts, Vogelsong will take the mound in a possible elimination game.
"We all kind of feel like we've been in this situation before with Cincinnati," Vogelsong said. "And it's not over until the last out. We're just going to play hard until the end and see what happens."
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy just looks forward to seeing what happens Sunday between Chris Carpenter and his guy.
"A great matchup," Bochy said. "You have a guy that has a tremendous record in postseason [Carpenter], and Vogey is throwing the ball well now. It's going to be a great game. It's going to be a battle."
Between his two playoff starts, Vogelsong has a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings, in which he has allowed only seven hits.
In a postseason now 10 games old, the righty's Game 2 start remained the only one in which a San Francisco starter lasted seven innings until Zito's gem on Friday night. Vogelsong happily accepts the challenge of following Zito's lead.
"I think we feed off each other a lot," Vogelsong said. "All season, I saw that it seemed like for the most part when one of us threw well, we kind of got on a roll, and when one or two of us struggled, we kind of followed suit. So that definitely is something that we can build off of, and hopefully I can go out and throw up a good one on Sunday, and hand the ball over to Matt on Monday, and he can throw a good one up and make this thing real interesting."
Taking into account the magnitude of the game and the fact he had retired 15 of the last 18 men he faced, Vogelsong called Game 2 the best outing he has ever pitched in the Majors.
"It's the best I've probably thrown the ball in a big league game after the third inning, for sure," he said. "Something clicked in the middle of that third inning, and I was just able to sustain it and run with it."
Quite a sentiment considering, judging just by the line, that wasn't even Vogelsong's premier effort against the Cardinals. Mere two months ago, he'd blanked them on three hits for seven innings at Busch Stadium.
Both efforts made an impression on the Cardinals and on their manager.
"He set a good tempo and kept our guys off balance," Mike Matheny said after Game 2. "He's done that to us a couple of times now. We haven't made the adjustments, and he's executed his pitches well. We're going to have to do something different if we see him again."
That next sighting is upon us.
Vogelsong's story of perseverance and survival has been told often, but gets a proper forum in the postseason. He is the 1998 Draft choice who toiled through two organizations (Pittsburgh) and two countries (Japan) before boomeranging back to the Giants.
After eight years of cameos in the Major Leagues, with both the Giants and the Pirates, he had 10 wins and 27 losses. The last two seasons, he has gone 27-16.
Matriculating from the proverbial school of hard knocks taught him how to persevere, and also how to relish the spotlight that currently shines on him.
"I've obviously been through a lot. I've heard other guys saying you don't get this chance too often," Vogelsong said. "And obviously this is my first time having it. And I'm just trying to make the most of it and stay mentally focused on every pitch until I'm out of the game.
"I'm just trying to soak it all in and have fun and get the job done."
If he does job No. 1 on Sunday and if Cain follows suit on Monday with job No. 2, Vogelsong will be able to soak in a World Series, too.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.