Scutaro picks up where he left off before slide
Second baseman shakes off soreness to tally two hits in Giants' Game 3 loss
ST. LOUIS -- It had to be an unsettling rain delay for the St. Louis Cardinals.They had more than 3 1/2 hours to think about Marco Scutaro coming up in the ninth inning of a tight Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Jason Motte got Scutaro that time -- although the "gimpy" second baseman's hot smash smothered by first baseman Matt Carpenter was the hardest hit ball in two innings off the razor-sharp closer in the Giants' 3-1 loss on Wednesday.
Before that and before the long rain delay, Scutaro got two hits and a new prop from St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse, who accused him of swinging a "magic wand."Louisville Sluggers do not come in a magic-wand version, but the characterization seemed fitting for an infielder who has rapped out two hits in each of the three games of the NLCS, the most recent in a start few expected him to be able to make after being steamrolled by Matt Holliday on Monday. After the long Wednesday, Scutaro said, "I feel good, man. It was good enough." "I'm sure he was gutting it out," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Scutaro. "You get hit like that, he was a little sore today. His knee was sore. But he's such a tough guy. He was determined to play tonight and made a pretty good recovery. And played well tonight, got some big hits and says a lot about his makeup and how tough he is." Diagnosed with a strained left hip following Holliday's take-out slide into him, Scutaro said the left knee is actually giving him more trouble now. "Sometimes when I shuffle [after a ground ball] or run the bases and stuff, my knee doesn't feel good," Scutaro said. "The hip is much better. The pain moved down to the knee. Tomorrow it will probably be the ankle." He was smiling as he said that. That's something Scutaro does often, almost as often as get key hits. His fifth-inning single was one of many wasted by the Giants on a frustrating evening, but before that, his third-inning double had keyed their only scoring rally. About that double ... it came on a 1-and-2 slider intended as a waste pitch by Lohse, and indeed delivered as such, way outside to the right-handed hitter. "He's a great baseball player. He hardly ever swings and misses, just one of those guys who always does a good job putting the ball in play," Lohse said. "There, I threw him a slider away, trying to maybe get him to chase. It was in the other batter's box. And he gets a double out of it. That magic wand ..." "Naw," Scutaro demured, "just trying to get good at-bats, man, trying to get on base for my guys. "[Lohse] is tough, one of those guys who doesn't give you too much to hit. His command is unbelievable. He's always painting the corners, mixing his pitches. He kept battling -- down and away, down and away. When he misses, he doesn't miss by very much." The only award Scutaro has ever won, unofficial at that, is Most Underrated Player. People remained unaware of his abilities, at least until his standout heroics for the Giants down the stretch of his 11th Major League season, only because the game-winning RBI was killed off as an official stat in 1989, following a brief trial. Scutaro always seems to be driving home somebody, somehow, with a key run. People in the uniforms are pretty oblivious to the numbers by which outsiders judge them. So while Buster Posey has no idea of Scutaro's actual production since he came aboard on July 27, he knows it must be pretty cool. "He's been unbelievable. I don't know his numbers," Posey confirmed. "But it's been ridiculous." Ridiculous enough for Scutaro to have emerged as one of the Giants' leaders. That would appear to be a very unlikely development for someone who has been barely two months on a team that won a World Series title in 2010. But Scutaro has become an inspiration -- particularly now, as he keeps grinding, even after getting pounded by Holliday. "It's nice to hear that from my teammates," Scutaro said. "I'm just happy nothing really bad happened to my leg and I was able to be back in the lineup to help the team win." He and double-play partner Brandon Crawford, who also had two hits, both did a lot to help. But they wound up only contributing to the 11 men left on base by the Giants, as they went 0-for-7 with men in scoring position. "We just didn't take advantage of our opportunities," nodded Scutaro. "They've got a good pitching staff, and kept us from coming through. But tomorrow is a new day." But it will bring the same old Scutaro, who in turn will bring his magic wand.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.