San Francisco, CA -- Their backs were against the wall and just like true champions the Giants answered with the 3-2 win over the Nationals. The St. Louis Cardinals are the next opponent, they eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday. San Francisco advances to the NLCS for the seventh time in team history and for the third time in the last five seasons.
"It means that I really have a gritty bunch out there," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy when asked about returning to the NLCS. "I told them earlier, there's nobody's will that's stronger than theirs or desire that's deeper than that. They were determined not to get back on the plane and go to Washington."
San Francisco backed their ace with enough runs for the victory. Ryan Vogelsong was brilliant on the mound. He tossed five plus innings, allowed two hits, one run, two walks, and struck out four. Vogelsong is the only starting pitcher in MLB to allow one run or fewer runs in each of his first five career postseason starts (since 1903).
"You know every time we're here, and I'm getting ready for a game, I just think back when I was a kid playing in the backyard," Vogelsong said. "Making believe I was in this situation. I just love it."
Vogelsong usually doesn't get run support when on the mound but did last night. He got just enough to send the team back to the championship series where they will see the Cardinals for the fourth time, having only lost the best of seven series in 1987 and winning it in 2002 and 2012.
Despite not pitching since September 26, Vogelsong was well prepared for the matchup. He explained that he watched video, corrected mistakes and uncovered flaws that prevented him from giving his best performance in the past. Vogelsong became just the second pitcher in postseason history to have five consecutive starts of allowing one or fewer runs.
"The mechanical glitches were sapping my velocity and the break on my pitches," said Vogelsong. "I spent the last five or six days trying to clean up and I was able to translate that into the game."
"The true story is pitching and defense," Hunter Pence said. "That's the foundation of this club."
Pence made a NFL leaping catch to rob Jayson Werth's sixth-inning drive off the wall. The Giants defensively made no errors and made sure to rattle the Nationals. San Francisco got on the board early when Gio Gonzalez unraveled in the second. Brandon Crawford singled and Juan Perez bunted towards Gonzalez who lost the ball, Perez was safe at first on the pitchers error.
Vogelsong bunted and Gonzalez assumed it was a foul ball loading the bases with one out. He then walked Gregor Blanco scoring in the Giants first run making it 1-0. Joe Panik grounded out and Perez scored extending their lead 2-0. But Washington tied the game in the seventh when Bryce Harper went deep with a two-run shot into McCovey Cove tying the game 2-2.
Bottom of the inning, Both Panik and Buster Posey rallied off of Washington's reliever Matt Thornton with one-out singles. Rookie Aaron Barrett walked Pence to load the bases. But Barrett's wild pitch to Pablo Sandoval scored in Panik breaking the tie. An intentional walk put Sandoval on at first, but his next pitch went sailing over catcher Wilson Ramos' head.
Posey darted for home plate and was called out. After further review the call stood as Bochy challenged the play to see if Barrett was blocking the plate. It didn't matter after that because San Francisco's defense provided enough effort to stifle the Nationals to clinch the division series sending them back to a familiar place, the NLCS.
"We didn't get the runs we thought we should be we created the opportunities," said Bochy.