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FRANCISCO -- The way to win playoff baseball games, of course, is to string a bunch of clean hits together.
Well, that's one way.
"This game is about luck," Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco said happily after a 7-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night at AT&T Park. "Sometimes you hit the ball good, but you hit it right at them."
Blanco was referring to a fluky bottom of the fourth inning when San Francisco put the game away with four runs, only one of them earned, with the help of a couple well-placed batted balls and a pair of Cardinals errors. Yes, the Giants hit some balls good. But they hit enough softly that weren't right at a fielder to do some real damage.
With the score tied at 1, the rally started when Brandon Belt lined a one-out double to left. Still, with the bottom of the order coming up, St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter could clearly see his way out of trouble. That's when things began to go bump in the night, helping San Francisco to score all the runs it would need to even the best-of-seven series.
With Blanco at the plate, St. Louis third baseman David Freese had to at least think about the possibility of a bunt. So he was coming toward the plate when Blanco chopped a ball down with enough force that it took a kangaroo hop over Freese's head and bounced into left field for a base hit. That left runners on first and third.
"I didn't try to do that," Blanco said. "I just had luck. That was good. I didn't think they'd have me bunting that early in the game. In that situation I was just trying to have a good at bat, and like I said, had a little bit of luck. And it was great. Then [shortstop Brandon] Crawford did the same thing. But that's what it takes to win a ballgame."
Well, not exactly the same thing. Crawford then chopped a ball off the plate and into no-man's land in front of the plate. Carpenter quickly determined that his only play was at first, but spun awkwardly and his throw got past first baseman Allen Craig. Crawford didn't even get credit for a hit as Belt scored; the official scorer charged Carpenter with an error instead.
Later, Crawford was asked if he believed in baseball karma. The question had to do with the fact that Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday leveled Marco Scutaro with a hard takeout slide in the first inning, only to have the Giants second baseman deliver the hit that broke the game open in the fourth -- with Holliday making an error on the play that allowed an extra run to score.
Crawford acknowledge the intent of the question, but also noted that he had lined into outs twice after that at-bat.
"Sometimes [karma] happens," he said. "Hopefully it means I get a couple bloop hits. Hopefully I bloop one in at the right time sometime this series."
Scutaro's big hit came after Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong twice failed to get a bunt down, then on his third attempt, managed to sacrifice to advance the runners. Still, it left Carpenter needing just one out to limit the damage. Instead, he walked Angel Pagan to load the bases. And that set the stage for Scutaro.
Carpenter came out of the game after that inning and had to be wondering what hit him.
"I thought he threw pretty well," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "A couple things just added up. They got a few things going and we couldn't get it stopped until there were too many runs on the board."
Which is another way to win a playoff game. And the Giants were happy to win in part because they softly struck just enough balls in spots where the fielders couldn't make a play.