Sarah's Take: Giants clicked to get leg up on Cards

Sarah's Take: Giants clicked to get leg up on Cards

Despite getting a poor start from Ryan Vogelsong, the San Francisco Giants used superb relief, linked hits together and took advantage of the St. Louis Cardinals' wildness and poor fielding to take a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.

The Giants have not yet hit a home run in this series, while the Cardinals have showed surprising power. Once again, baseball shows that success comes from having all aspects of the game.

Vogelsong performed outstandingly in the Giants' past two postseason appearances, but Wednesday wasn't his night. He didn't have command, except his changeup. No starting pitcher can survive long with only one pitch that he can throw for strikes. Vogelsong allowed nine of 16 batters he faced to reach base.

If the Giants' relief corps had not kept the hot-hitting Cardinals quiet for the last six innings, San Francisco wouldn't have won the game. But the veteran bullpen did exactly that, including the magical seventh inning, when the Cardinals have scored most of their runs this postseason.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy trusted his bullpen completely, and this allowed him to go there after it became obvious that Vogelsong wouldn't find himself. Unlike many 'pens that have mostly hard-throwing relievers who can blow away the opposition, the Giants instead rely on having fantastic control and changing speeds effectively. The Cardinals, for the first time during the postseason, couldn't adjust to the opposition's pitching style. None of San Francisco's relievers pitched for that long, so they should be available in Game 5, when the team tries to clinch a World Series berth.

Throughout the regular season, many criticized the Giants for their inability to come back from a deficit. They also have a weak bench on paper, so they can't call upon a strong power hitter to come up and hit a three-run homer.

The Cardinals looked like they would tie the series when they built a three-run lead going into the bottom of the third. They would have had a distinct advantage for the rest of the series if they could have held onto the lead, since they would have needed only two more wins in the NLCS to go to the Fall Classic, and Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be played in St. Louis.

But under Bochy's calm leadership, the Giants didn't panic.

From the beginning of the game, the fans were into it. They cheered every strike against the Cardinals, and they applauded anything good for the Giants. Their supreme belief that their favorite team would prevail helped give the Giants energy, and that propelled them to victory.

Even with the lead, the Cardinals appeared nervous. Their pitchers aren't accustomed to throwing to any catcher except Yadier Molina, who is sidelined with an oblique injury. Molina might be the best catcher in all of baseball; St. Louis' staff needs to figure out how to win without him. Through the game, the Cards' pitchers couldn't find the strike zone. This was their biggest problem and ultimately allowed the Giants to win.

Not having confidence in their abilities to retire the opposing batter, the Cardinals started to nibble at the strike zone when they had two strikes, and this allowed the Giants to get two-strike walks and hits. Buster Posey took advantage of this and drove in three runs.

In Game 5, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner will try to close out the series against Cardinals counterpart Adam Wainwright, who is battling a sore elbow.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.