SAN FRANCISCO -- Runner on third, one out, second inning. Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford at the plate, starter Ryan Vogelsong on deck. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny made the by-the-book decision: Walk the hitter intentionally to get to the pitcher.
Except that Vogelsong spoiled the strategy. He shortened up as if to bunt and then, when St. Louis right-hander Chris Carpenter delivered, he pulled back and chopped the ball toward shortstop. Even though it was a tough play, Pete Kozma was charged with an error. More importantly, one run scored and it opened the door for what eventually turned into a four-run rally in San Francisco's 6-1 win in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series Sunday night at AT&T Park.
Some people like the designated hitter. Some don't. But pitchers at the plate have been right in the middle of the action during this NLCS.
"Vogelsong did a great job of just putting the ball in play to get a run in," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He deserves a lot of credit. That wasn't an easy pitch to handle, but he got enough on it to put it in play and that's the way we have to play. Home runs are nice, believe me. But that's not our strength. We know it. So it's important that we do the small things.
"We had the runner in motion there. He knew it. And he's probably as good as anybody on the staff at putting that ball in play on the slash and he did a tremendous job again."
That came some 48 hours after two separate sequences neatly illustrated how much a pitcher can help, or hurt, himself at the plate.
In the bottom of the second inning of a scoreless Game 5 at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals had runners on second and third with one out and eight-hole hitter Daniel Descalso at the plate. Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to have starter Barry Zito walk the second baseman intentionally to bring pitcher Lance Lynn up with the bases loaded. Lynn grounded into an inning-ending double play as Zito shattered his bat.
San Francisco essentially put the game away in the top of the fourth with a four-run rally that was capped by a two-out, RBI bunt single by Zito.
"It's been fun, man," said second baseman Marco Scutaro. "Like Zito the other day, with two outs, he drops a bomb. Those guys can pitch. And also can hit, too."
In Game 4, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright worked a walk with two outs in the bottom of the second. He was stranded, but at least it turned the lineup over. In Game 3, Giants starter Matt Cain kept a rally alive with a two-out single in the top of the sixth that put runners on first and second with two outs. The Giants were down one, so the hit came at a critical juncture, but Angel Pagan grounded out to end the inning.
And in Game 2, both starters -- Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals and Vogelsong -- doubled. Vogelsong also had a sacrifice bunt, but Carpenter gets the edge because his two-bagger in the top of the second drove in the run that tied the score after the Giants had gone ahead in the bottom of the first.
In the NL, at least, that's all part of the game.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.