published Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Giants fall to Cardinals 6-4 in NLCS opener

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws during the first inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in San Francisco.
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws during the first inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in San Francisco.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants are showing how little home-field advantage matters in the baseball playoffs.

Madison Bumgarner allowed two homers and got knocked out early for the second time this postseason and the Giants once again got off to a bad start to a series at home, losing Game 1 of the NL championship series 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.

The Giants have lost all three home games so far this postseason, with Bumgarner taking the defeat in two of them. They managed to overcome that in the first round against Cincinnati by becoming the first team ever to win the final three games of a best-of-five series on the road.

But if San Francisco is to make it back to the World Series for a second time in three years, the team must win at AT&T Park at least once this series against the wild-card Cardinals.

Game 2 will be Monday night with San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong taking on St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter.

Playing at home has usually been a big advantage for the Giants, who excel with the nightly sellouts and spacious dimensions that help the pitching staff. San Francisco had a 48-33 record at AT&T Park during the regular season and won five of seven postseason home games on the way to the World Series title two years ago.

That hasn’t been the case this October as the Giants have been outscored 20-6 in the three home games. The common theme so far has been subpar starting pitching with Bumgarner the main culprit. After going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA as a rookie in the postseason two years ago, Bumgarner hasn’t made it through five innings in either start this year.

He looked in good form at the start, needing just 11 pitches to get through a perfect first inning. But nothing was easy after that.

Yadier Molina lined a single on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the second. David Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Bumgarner then couldn’t make it out of the fourth. Daniel Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma’s double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner’s night with the homer. That marked the first time all year that Bumgarner allowed two homers in a home game and gave him an 11.25 ERA in the postseason.

Even a strong night from Tim Lincecum and the bullpen couldn’t overcome Bumgarner’s rough outing. Five Giants relievers combined for 5 1-3 hitless innings with Lincecum throwing two.

The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner had been demoted to the bullpen so far in the playoffs after a rough regular season. He has allowed just one run in 8 1-3 innings so far and could give manager Bruce Bochy an option if he doesn’t want to give the struggling Bumgarner another start.

The Giants bats woke up in the fourth inning when RBI hits by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford and a two-run triple by Gregor Blanco cut the deficit to 6-4.

But they managed only two hits in 5 1-3 innings against the Cardinals bullpen and find themselves in a 1-0 series hole.

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