SAN FRANCISCO -- What does it take to eliminate the Giants, anyway? At this point, maybe Godzilla. Or a plague. Or a radioactive meteor shower with rabid squirrels attached to each meteor. All of that, collectively, might be enough to send the Giants home for the winter.
But on Sunday night, the St. Louis Cardinals couldn't do it.
"I think," said Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, "that there is something to be said about the concentration level I see on this team when we're in this situation."
The Giants' 6-1 decision here at AT&T Park, the team's fifth straight victory when facing a win-or-go-home game, sent the National League Championship Series to a seventh and final game Monday at 5 p.m. The Giants will send their ace pitcher, Matt Cain, to the mound.
"You're seeing a great series here," said Giants' manager Bruce Bochy. "That's good for baseball, a seventh game."
The Cardinals may have another opinion.
Bochy is correct, however, about the drama of the series. The decisive Game 7 should be an epic confrontation between two outfits that each know how to play when every pitch could be a season-finisher. The Cardinals themselves have also won their last six elimination games. One of the team's streaks will evaporate Monday.
"History doesn't play any part of it for us," said Kyle Lohse, who will start Game 7 for St. Louis. "They obviously have got a good crew over there. They've shown they can play pretty well with their backs up against the wall, too. ... We've both shown we can be pretty resilient when our backs are up against the wall."
Still, if there is an edge heading into Monday's game, you'd have to think it goes to the Giants -- and not merely because of Cain. The Cardinals are the team that has lost two straight games after taking a three-games-to-one lead in the series. And on Sunday ... well, it wasn't so much that the Giants won. It was how they won.
Here's how: The Giants jumped on St. Louis starting pitcher Chris Carpenter for five runs in the first two innings. Meanwhile, Giants starter Vogelsong was in complete control of his high-wattage fastball and no-hit the Cardinals for the first four innings.
So. Just like that, St. Louis was behind 5-0, basically knocked out early. And with the crowd at AT&T Park operating at maximum decibels, the Cardinals never really did look comfortable.
In fact, the raucous crowd may have even played a part in the Giants' biggest offensive inning.
That was the second inning. Vogelsong came to the plate with runners on first and third, one out. He was given the sign for a "slash" play, which calls for him to first square up as if he's going to bunt, then step back and swing the bat on a hit-and-run play.
Vogelsong executed the technique perfectly. He sent a hard ground ball at St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma, who had leaned briefly toward covering third base when Vogelsong faked the bunt, then had to move the other way to field the ball. Meanwhile, the crowd barked out a roar when Vogelsong drew back from the bunt and made contact.
You will never get a Major League player to admit that an opposing crowd played a role in an error. But that noisy bark, to Kozma, must have been like someone yelling "boo" in the ear of a person trying to carry a tray of dishes across a room, causing the person to flinch slightly and drop the dishes. Kozma bobbled the ball and had no play. The runner on third scored and everyone was safe.
It tripped a switch. And made the crowd even louder. Later in the inning, with two outs, a double by Marco Scutaro and single by Pablo Sandoval brought in three more runs. All were unearned, thanks to Kozma's error.
"I didn't want to let these guys down," said Vogelsong of both his "slash" and his pitching.
No problem there. Vogelsong was practically a force of nature when he marched out to start the game. Sandoval, who plays third base and had a close-up view of the pitchers' mound, said he could tell early on that Vogelsong had his best stuff.
"Yeah, in the first two innings I knew," Sandoval said, "when he struck out five of the first six guys."
That was only the beginning. Vogelsong wound up going seven innings and allowing just four hits, one run.
"I'm very proud of that man," said relief pitcher Sergio Romo, who closed out the victory. "He got going and established the tempo early. He did an incredible job."
So here we go. This will be the first Game 7 played in San Francisco since the 1962 World Series, when the Giants lost to the New York Yankees at Candlestick Park.
Sunday night, there was at least one person at AT&T Park who remembers that day 50 years ago. Willie McCovey lined out to Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson to end the game. Sunday, about 15 minutes after the final pitch, the smiling 74-year-old McCovey and his bad knees rolled past the Giants' locker room door in his golf cart, on the way to the parking lot.
He will be back Monday afternoon. So will the Giants.