SAN FRANCISCO What the heck happened to these Giants?
Winning nine out of 10? Going 24-10 since Melky Cabrerassuspension? Putting themselves in position to celebrate a division title asearly as Saturday, with another 10 games remaining in the season?
This is no way at all to torture a fan base, is it?
Weve been playing the right kind of ball, said PabloSandoval, who has a contact zone the size of an industrial freezer once more.Everything is going our way.
Including Sandoval. Including Ryan Vogelsong. If anythingmore broke the Giants way, Brian Wilson would levitate to the mound onSaturday and start shredding bats with 96-mph heat.
OK, so that wont happen. But what is happening is theGiants most sustained run of solid baseball since 2003. They continued rightalong in a 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday.
And Vogelsong needed it. He held the Padres to a run in sixhigh-quality innings after posting a 10.31 ERA over his previous seven starts.
Im gonna sleep for the first time in about a month, Illtell you that, Vogelsong said.
He mixed a 94 mph fastball with a moving two-seamer and achangeup that mostly settled in the right corners.
Ive been trying to tweak some stuff for awhile, Vogelsongsaid. I finally found something that felt comfortable and was easy to repeat.I got kind of twisted around along the way.
The Giants postseason rotation is all bunched up, too.There seems little doubt that Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum wouldopen a division series likely in that order. But would Barry Zito orVogelsong be the No. 4 starter?
A case can be made for starting Zito and keeping Vogelsongready to piggyback him. Vogelsong has much more experience in relief, andalthough he is ultra-intense on the days he pitches, he is lessroutine-oriented than Zito is.
Carrying all five starters could allow the Giants to openwith an 11-man staff, if manager Bruce Bochy is so inclined, and still have aseven-man bullpen since one of the starters would pitch in relief. That couldallow Bochy to carry Aubrey Huff, which seems likely, and still have a pinchrunner to caddy for him.
Asked if he is thinking about his role in the postseason,Vogelsong did not hesitate in offering his response.
No because things work themselves out, he said. If Imnot in the rotation, hopefully Im in the bullpen and if thats the way it is,thats the way it is. I said it last year: My ultimate goal is to win a ring.
You start by winning a division. And with the magic numberat two, the Giants could be ready for a soaking if they win and the Dodgerslose their earlier game at Cincinnati.
Thatd be nice, said outfielder Gregor Blanco, asked aboutwalking into the ballpark with a chance to clinch. I think we deserve it.Weve been playing hard the whole year, through ups and downs. We just hopeits tomorrow.
The Giants are ready to spill bottles. They also want tofind a way to bottle up the way theyre playing.
Sandoval, benched barely more than a week ago because of hisstruggles at the plate and inconsistency in the field, is starting to become acontact-crazy force at the plate once more. He singled at a ball near his eyes,dug out another single on a low pitch and cranked a two-run home run in thesixth inning his fourth homer in three games.
Another pitch out of the zone?
No, no, it was right in the middle, he said, laughing. Ivebeen seeing the ball well. Ive been working hard every single day in the cage.I want to get my timing going and Im seeing the results of the work Ive beendoing. Im happy right now.
When youre swinging well, things are going right.
No torture required.