After Game 4, the Cardinals appeared to have the series won, especially with Zito -- who has struggled during his career with the Giants -- scheduled to pitch Game 5. Zito, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, gave the Giants the performance of his life. This renewed the enthusiasm surrounding the team and the belief in their collective ability to beat the favored Cardinals to go to the World Series.
When Zito was in trouble, the defense made a spectacular play to end the possible scoring rally. Zito, who has been widely criticized over the last six years due to his big contract with the Giants, gave his team the important momentum that followed them back to San Francisco.
Before Game 6, the Cardinals learned that their left fielder Matt Holliday couldn't play because he had a stiff lower back. Although he hasn't performed well offensively during the series, his absence didn't boost the confidence of the Cardinals, who suddenly have gone into a team-wide offensive slump.
Vogelsong, a pitching hero of Game 2, breezed through the Cardinals' lineup. He established a career high in strikeouts with nine, and didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning. The Cardinals never had a leadoff hitter reach base during the game, and this made it almost impossible to score. As Game 6 went on, the erosion of the Cardinals' confidence became evident.
Since baseball has a 162-game season, momentum and confidence aren't talked about much. However, in the postseason, having momentum can mean the difference between sitting at home or becoming world champions. Capturing the momentum is vital for the success of a team in the playoffs.
After Game 4, with St. Louis needing only one more win to return to the World Series, a few runs and no errors probably would have led them to the Fall Classic. Zito's extraordinary pitching performance and the Giants' superior defense enabled them to recapture the precious momentum necessary to win the series.
Playing in front of a boisterous sell-out crowd at AT&T Park, the Giants fed off the fans' excitement to win. They have played five games this postseason where they faced elimination, and they have won all of them.
Before the game began on Sunday, the Giants were loose in the dugout and clowning around, whereas the Cardinals looked deadly serious. Baseball is a game to be enjoyed. When teams forget this fact, they usually lose.
Everything that the Giants did Sunday seemed relaxed, conveying a certainty that they would win the game. The Cardinals seemed the team that faced elimination. Mike Matheny chose to start Chris Carpenter, who has a history of performing well in big games, but he has only pitched six games this entire season because he has had a serious nerve problem that required surgery to remove a rib. Even though his infield defense didn't support him well, Carpenter didn't pitch particularly well either.
The Giants took advantage of every fielding miscue to add runs, and Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval continued their hot hitting. Nevertheless, without a triple from Brandon Belt to start a four-run second inning, the Giants might not have won.
On Monday night, the Giants have their ace Matt Cain on the mound. The Giants didn't win a clinching game at AT&T Park in 2010, so their loyal fans desperately want a chance to celebrate with the team. Unless the Cardinals score early and quiet the highly enthusiastic crowd, the Giants will keep the momentum on their way to the World Series.