Kruk & Kuip: Bochy hung in there with Vogelsong and got a win
CHICAGO -- Ryan Vogelsong overwinters in the Pennsylvania woods, where he lists shoveling snow among his favorite pastimes.
So it was no surprise to see Vogelsong in short sleeves as he stood on the mound in the 40-degree gloom at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon.
But it was a bit unexpected to see Nick Noonan feel so comfortably toasty. The rookie’s first major league start included singles in each of his first three at-bats. Vogelsong revved up the chainsaw after a rough fourth inning and the Giants took advantage of sloppy defense to score a 7-6 victory -- their largest comeback win in nearly five years.
The Giants trailed 5-0 before beginning their charge in the fourth inning. They hadn’t erased a five-run deficit to win since Sept. 7, 2008, against the Pirates.
Vogelsong (1-1) drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth inning to force home the tiebreaking run and Angel Pagan followed with a sacrifice fly put the Giants ahead. Just 10 games into the season, they’ve already come back from four- and five-run deficits to win.
Starting pitching report
The Cubs tallied four runs on five hits against Vogelsong in the third inning, including a two-run blast from Anthony Rizzo that knifed through the fog and found the left field bleachers.
But the Cubs only hit one other ball hard off Vogelsong in the inning –- a one-hop smash single by Wellington Castillo that Crawford managed to knock down. The rest were bloopers and seeing-eye hits, although Vogelsong couldn’t feel good about giving up a two-run single to No. 8 hitter Brent Lillibridge with two outs.
Like Tim Lincecum on Tuesday, the important thing is that Vogelsong kept competing and kept making pitches. He retired pitcher Scott Feldman to end the third, and then went nine up and nine down the rest of the way.
Vogelsong’s final line was not pretty -– 6 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 1 walk and 5 strikeouts on 107 pitches –- but he earned every bit of the decision.
Jeremy Affeldt had his sinker working while getting three ground balls in the seventh, but he gave up a double to Alfonso Soriano in the eighth and then Nate Schierholtz shattered his bat twice on consecutive pitches. The first one was a foul ball and a piece of flying lumber that Affeldt managed to skip over like it was double dutch. The next broken bat resulted in an infield single that put runners at the corners.
Santiago Casilla entered and made perhaps the Giants’ biggest pitch of the afternoon, getting a ground ball from Castillo that Noonan crisply fielded and flipped to start a double play. Soriano scored to make it a one-run game, but emptying the bases proved vital when Luis Valbuena followed with a double to the wall in center field. Casilla stranded the tying run in scoring position, though, when he dropped in a terrific curve to freeze pinch hitter Steve Clevenger.
Sergio Romo is 6-for-6 in save chances, and this one tested his mettle after David DeJesus hit a one-out double. Romo struck out Starlin Castro, and then after a mound meeting with catcher Buster Posey, the right-hander went fastball-slider to get two strikes on Rizzo. After two chase pitches didn’t work, Romo went back to a fastball inside, Rizzo jackknifed and plate umpire Kerwin Danley pumped his arm to end the game.
At the plate
Noonan’s first major league start was a day to remember. He collected singles in each of his first three at-bats, becoming the first Giant since Travis Ishikawa to get three hits in his first start.
The Giants took advantage of the Cubs’ sloppy and distracted play to start their four-run comeback in the fourth.
A two-out hit from Noonan extended the inning, then Vogelsong hit a ground ball that skidded past shortstop Starlin Castro for an error that scored Hunter Pence. Angel Pagan followed with a ground ball to first base, but Rizzo inexplicably looked at the lead runners even though Feldman immediately broke to cover first base and would’ve beaten Pagan to the bag. Brandon Crawford was hit by a pitch to load the bases, then Pablo Sandoval battled back from an 0-2 count to serve a two-run hit to left-center. Sandoval alertly stretched his hit into a double when he noticed that both Cubs middle infielders were heading out to cut off the throw and nobody bothered to cover the base.
(Yes, the Cubs had spring training and everything. I saw them there.)
The Giants completed their comeback in the fifth, with the bottom of the order once again finding ways to get on base. Belt hit a one-out single, Gregor Blanco walked and Noonan greeted left-hander Hisanori Takahashi with his third hit of the game to load the bases. Then Vogelsong drew a walk that forced home the tying run as the sparse crowd booed.
Pagan followed with a sacrifice fly that put the Giants ahead, then Crawford, who proved productive all day in the No. 2 spot, singled in another run.
Crawford was on base all day. He was 1-for-2 with two walks and a hit by pitch. Even the one out he made was a productive one that advanced the runner.
The wet and clumpy infield led to some bad bounces for both clubs. Noonan’s first career error was an unfortunate one in the first inning. It came after he deftly fielded a grounder that deflected off Vogelsong and his one-hop throw skidded past first baseman Brandon Belt.
The Cubs scored the game’s first run in the second inning when Belt fielded a grounder, threw to second base and then Vogelsong and Belt seemed a bit indecisive on who should take the double-play throw from shortstop Brandon Crawford. Crawford’s throw sailed in between and through, allowing Nate Schierholtz to cross the plate.
Pagan turned in the play of the game, denying Luis Valbuena with a sliding, scooping catch after a long run in right-center in the sixth inning. And Gregor Blanco was just lucky to avoid injury when he slid into the mound while chasing a foul pop in the fifth.
The Cubs announced 25,460 paid but actual attendance might have been a quarter of that –- including one guy behind home plate who braved the elements in a sleeveless T-shirt. “This is beautiful,” he told me, prior to the first pitch. He was talking about the weather. Not the Cubs. I think.
The Giants and Cubs play the second game of this four-game series Friday at Wrigley Field. Matt Cain (0-1. 8.38), who gave up a franchise record nine earned runs in the fourth inning Sunday, will try to start the long process of whittling down his ERA. He’ll face right-hander and one-time Giants farmhand Carlos Villanueva (0-0, 1.35). First pitch is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. PDT.