Rounding Third: Holliday gives Giants something to rally around

If you were wondering where the juice was going to come from in the National League Championship Series, you got it in San Francisco's Game 2 win on Monday.

With one out and runners on first and second in the first inning, St. Louis' Allen Craig slapped a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who threw to second for the force-out.

While Marco Scutaro was trying to turn the double play, Matt Holliday barreled into the second baseman's left leg, which got pinned underneath Holliday. Scutaro lay on the ground for a few moments to collect himself.

"He was definitely in pain," Giants outfielder Angel Pagan said. "But he's a tough competitor."

Technically it was a legal play. But it was way late, and because of that, it may have changed the landscape of the series, as it woke up a dormant San Francisco crowd and fired up a Giants team that wanted no part of going back to St. Louis down 2-0.

"When you see one of your guys go down," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said, "you just kind of go, 'Let's go. Let's put it on the board.'"

Scutaro then showed just how tough he is, as he stayed in the game and collected a couple of hits, including a two-run single, as part of a four-run fourth inning before finally exiting the contest after the fifth to have X- rays on his hip.

The damage had been done by that point, though, and the Giants rolled to a 7-1 win.

"He showed how tough he is, and I really think they got away with an illegal slide there," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "(Holliday) didn't hit dirt until he was past the bag. Marco was behind the bag and got smoked. It's a shame somebody got hurt because of this. And that's more of a roadblock."

Holliday, who was booed lustily the rest of the night, also misplayed Scutaro's big hit in the fourth. After the game, though, he defended his takeout slide.

"He was right on the base," recalled Holliday, "and I just tried to slide into him to make sure he couldn't turn the double play. In hindsight, I wish I would have started my slide a step earlier. But it's happening fast, and you're trying to get to his lower half so that he can't turn the double play."

Of course, the Giants are already a little sensitive when it comes to questionable slides after they lost catcher Buster Posey for the season last year with a broken leg following a home plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins.

This Giants team has gained some attention for its pregame scrums which resemble a football team. Pence is the ringleader of it and his "look into each other's eyes" speech has become the team's rallying cry.

What do you think his pregame speech will center on Wednesday?


The series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 on Wednesday and will pit Giants ace Matt Cain against the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse.

Cain, who on television Monday said that Holliday's slide was over the line, will be starting on five days' rest after getting the win in San Francisco's Game 5 NLDS win over the Cincinnati Reds last Thursday. He was 1-1 in that series despite a 5.06 ERA.

The 28-year-old right-hander, who was 8-2 in 17 road starts this season, was 16-5 during the year with a 2.79 ERA. He was just 1-1 in two starts versus the Cardinals, but surrendered nine runs in 11 2/3 innings of those outings.

St. Louis, meanwhile, will rely on Lohse, who was the Cardinals' most consistent starter this season, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA.

"He's been incredible at making pitches, from Day 1 in Miami, Opening Day, right up until his last start," Matheny said. "That just takes a great deal of physical skill and just mental toughness to stay as locked in as he's been."

Lohse has faced the Giants five times and is 3-2 with a 3.78 ERA against them.