Giants turn back Brewers
Whatever the reason, there's no doubt the Giants' 4-2 victory had a playoff feel to it.
"There was definitely another notch in the department of loud," said Brian Wilson, who pitched the last of the bullpen's four heroically hitless innings. "I don't pay attention too much, but I heard a lot more people screaming tonight. I urge them to have that edge every night."
As they did last October, the Giants brought more fight than firepower to win. Aubrey Huff hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the fifth inning, Ryan Vogelsong gutted it out with a smallish strike zone, and the bullpen was as good as ever.
Nate Schierholtz had a two-run double among his three hits as the Giants evened the series with a dangerous opponent that they might meet again in the postseason.
No wonder the Giants can't look ahead to Tuesday's long-awaited NLCS reunion with the Philadelphia Phillies.
"They're a great team, and they got better, as their record shows," Wilson said of the Phillies. "We also have great pitching. We're excited for that, but we do have a series to take tomorrow. You can't sleep on these guys. They've got a potent offense, but we like our matchups."
The Giants didn't like the strike zone that umpire Sam Holbrook gave to Vogelsong in the early innings. Wotus was ejected in the fourth for chirping from the dugout, then manager Bruce Bochy encouraged his bench coach to get his money's worth.
"I said, 'Go get 'em Ronnie,'" Bochy said, smiling. "I kind of pushed him. ". . . You know, it's intense out there. Players, coaches, myself — I thought Ronnie deserved more time, and he did a nice job with it."
It also pumped up Vogelsong, who held down a potent lineup for five innings.
"Yeah, I told him thank you," Vogelsong said. "It definitely motivated me a little bit. I don't know what he said, but it gave us a little jump-start."
Ryan Braun opened the scoring with a solo home run off Vogelsong in the fourth, but Giants left fielder Cody Ross kept the Brewers from tacking on more. He made a strong throw to the plate, and catcher Chris Stewart's tag brushed Rickie Weeks' jersey.
Vogelsong needed another defensive play to escape the inning, though. With runners at the corners, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke tried to pilfer a run with the delayed double-steal. But that's one of Bochy's favorite tricks, and you can't fool a fooler. Stewart's pump-fake to second base froze Casey McGehee halfway home, and he offered little rundown resistance.
Schierholtz's bases-loaded double in the fourth gave the Giants a rare lead against Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf, a nemesis who entered with a 2.77 ERA in 19 starts against them.
But the Brewers evened it up in the fifth, and much to the crowd's chagrin, it was Nyjer Morgan who slapped the double that tied the score. Morgan, who caused a stir when he appeared to flip off fans in the bleachers Friday night, was booed loudly in every at-bat. After his double scored Corey Hart, he called for time and flapped his arms in celebration.
Morgan didn't laugh for long. With a 3-1 count to Braun and two outs, Morgan made the highly questionable decision to try to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Stewart made an on-target throw to third base, and Pablo Sandoval put down the tag to end the inning.
The Giants nudged back in front in the fifth by manufacturing a run in classic style. Aaron Rowand hit a leadoff single, Mike Fontenot sacrificed him to second base, Sandoval dribbled an infield single, and Huff followed with a sacrifice fly to left field. It wasn't especially deep, but Rowand easily beat Braun's off-line throw.
From there, the bullpen went to work. Santiago Casilla walked two but threw a devastating curveball to strike out Prince Fielder in a scoreless sixth inning. Jeremy Affeldt needed just seven pitches to retire the side in the seventh.
Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez carved through the heart of Milwaukee's order in the eighth, and then Wilson's House of Pain entrance music barely ceased before he recorded a three-out save in five pitches.
"When the game was over, we said, 'What happened?'" Bochy said. "We'd like to see more of those. It'd save a load for him."