- Associated Press - Sunday, October 21, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Ryan Vogelsong struck out six during a hitless start, and the San Francisco Giants took a 5-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals through three innings in Game 6 of the NL championship series Sunday night.

St. Louis leads the series 3-2.

Trying to force a decisive Game 7 at home, Marco Scutaro hit a two-out, two-run double off Chris Carpenter to highlight San Francisco’s four-run second. Buster Posey’s groundout in the first also scored Scutaro and gave the NL batting champion his first RBI of the series.

Vogelsong’s dominating start came almost all on fastballs and commanding cutters to energize an orange towel-twirling crowd on a cool night at San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark.

Fans serenaded the 35-yeard-old journeyman with chants of “Vog-ey! Vog-ey!” He struck out the side in the first _ allowing only a one-out walk to Matt Carpenter _ and mixed in a changeup to get Carlos Beltran swinging for the second out of the inning.

Matt Carpenter replaced Matt Holliday in St. Louis’ lineup when the left fielder was scratched about 45 minutes before first pitch because of lower back tightness, the team said. Carpenter started at first base and batted second, Allen Craig shifted from first to left field and Beltran slid back a spot to third while playing right field.

With Vogelsong on the mound and San Francisco’s offense off to a scintillating start, Holliday’s absence might not have mattered much.

After Scutaro drew a one-out walk in the first, Sandoval doubled over the head of Jon Jay as the center fielder got turned around fighting the sun and shadows during the twilight start. Scutaro scored on Posey’s groundout to third to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.

Brandon Belt tripled to right-center leading off the second. Gregor Blanco struck out swinging and Brandon Crawford was walked intentionally.

With Crawford trying to steal second on the pitch, Vogelsong chopped a ball that shortstop Pete Kozma couldn’t handle. Scutaro doubled to left and Sandoval singled on the 10th pitch against Carpenter to put the Giants ahead 5-0.

The 10 unearned runs allowed by the Cardinals over the series is the most in NLCS history, according to STATS LLC. Two teams have allowed nine.

Not exactly the start St. Louis had in mind.

The only other time the Cardinals opened a 3-1 lead in the NLCS came in 1996, when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in seven games. San Francisco, which never faced an elimination game in winning the 2010 World Series title, is 4-0 when pushed to the brink this postseason. The Giants became the first team in major league history to come back from a 0-2 deficit and win the final three games on the road when they stunned the Cincinnati Reds in the division series.

St. Louis has won its last seven games when facing elimination dating back to 2006 but the defending champions were hoping to avoid another chance to extend the streak. After falling into a 3-1 hole before winning Game 5 to force the series back to San Francisco, the Giants liked their chances to do just that.

Vogelsong became the first Giants starter to last through six innings this postseason when he allowed four hits over seven innings in a 7-1 victory in Game 2. Carpenter had been even more reliable this time of year for the Cardinals, with his 10 postseason victories the most in franchise history.

Giants ace Matt Cain would take the mound for Game 7 in San Francisco on Tuesday night against Kyle Lohse.


Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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