SAN FRANCISCO -- To keep themselves out of another tough situation, the Giants turned to two of their toughest players.

Starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong delivered one of the best efforts of his career in the biggest game of his career, leading the Giants to a 7-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that evened the National League Championship Series at 1-1 and kept them from having to overcome another deep series deficit. Marco Scutaro delivered the big hit, a bases-loaded single that knocked the Cardinals out three innings after he had nearly been knocked out of the game.

A hard and late slide at second base by Matt Holliday injured Scutaro's left hip in the first inning, and Scutaro was removed before the sixth inning to have X-rays taken. The test came back negative, but Scutaro will have an MRI exam, and his status for Game 3 is in doubt.

"I really think he got away with an illegal slide there," manager Bruce Bochy said of Holliday. "Marco was behind the bag and got smoked. It's a shame somebody got hurt because of this."

Vogelsong saw Scutaro walk gingerly back to his position after the collision and realized the onus was back on him.

"I felt like I really needed to make a pitch to the next guy to get him off the field," Vogelsong said. "You know he's not coming out of the game, whether he's really hurt or not. I just really was trying to make the next pitch to get the guy out so we could get (Scutaro) in the dugout."

Vogelsong induced a grounder that got the Giants out of the jam and Scutaro back to the team trainers. But that wasn't Vogelsong's biggest pitch of the night.

After a shaky start, he felt "something click mechanically" on a third-inning pitch.

"It was like, 'That's it right there — that's how I want to feel,' " Vogelsong said. "That happens for me from time to time. I was able to sustain it and run with it."

The Giants hope Vogelsong can run with that feeling for a couple more weeks. And they hope the rest of the rotation can keep stride.

Vogelsong became the first Giants starter in seven postseason games to complete six innings and then went one more. He gave up four hits and one run while earning his first career postseason victory.

Vogelsong called it the best effort of a remarkable career that took him from Japan to the All-Star game in a span of two years. The win kept the Giants from having to overcome another 0-2 deficit on the road, a feat that most players agreed would have been all but impossible to pull off a second time.

"Vogey really put us on his back tonight," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "It was big to get this one, really big."

Vogelsong got the Giants off the field three pitches after Scutaro was knocked down, and Angel Pagan immediately kept the momentum going. Pagan hit a leadoff homer to right to give the Giants their first lead in a home game this postseason and make Pagan the second major leaguer to hit two leadoff homers in one postseason.

Pagan said he was angry after the top of the first inning, not at Holliday, who conceded the slide was late, but at the fact that the Giants' No. 2 hitter was ailing.

"You get angry to lose a player like Scutaro," Pagan said. "He's a huge piece of the puzzle."

Scutaro's teammates kept filling in new pieces as the Giants pulled away. Brandon Belt got the Giants going in the fourth with a one-out double that dropped into left field after nicking the end of his bat. Gregor Blanco chopped a high hopper over leaping third baseman David Freese to send Belt to third. Brandon Crawford's slow roller was thrown away by pitcher Chris Carpenter as the Giants took a 2-1 lead.

"This is the playoffs," Belt said. "We don't care how it's done."

A walk to Pagan loaded the bases for Scutaro. He lined a sinker into left field, easily scoring Blanco and Crawford. Pagan raced home when the ball got past Holliday in left field.

"What he did was extremely inspirational," said Pence, the man who gives fiery speeches before every playoff game. "Scutaro pushing through there really pumped us up."

Scutaro's rebuttal gave the Giants a 5-1 lead, plenty on a day when Vogelsong was at his best. The other three starting pitchers in the postseason have given up 18 earned runs in 211/3 innings; Vogelsong has a 1.29 ERA in two postseason starts.

On a night when one of the Giants' most important players went down on a borderline dirty play, Vogelsong helped the Giants get revenge in their own way.

"The best thing is to just go out and do what we did tonight," catcher Buster Posey said. "Win a ball game."

For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.