SAN FRANCISCO Ryan Vogelsong could not begin to delve intohis rituals and superstitions on the day he pitches. There are too many tocount.
He already revealed to CSN Bay Area that he absolutely musteat chicken enchiladas for dinner the night before he pitches, home or away.Most everyone in the Giants clubhouse knew that, too, including BrandonCrawford.
But in the hours before Game 2 of the NLCS Monday night, theGiants shortstop learned of one more of Vogelsongs rituals that must not bebroken.
He only uses the first stall in the bathroom, which I foundout today, Crawford said.
I was in there and he said, Get out!
And there you have Ryan Vogelsong, ladies and gents, whodoes not take life sitting down. No detail in his routine is too small to beinsignificant, no variable too unimportant. Its all about mastering asemblance of control in a random world, so hell feel like nothing can go tochance when he hits the mound.
That is never the case, rationally. There will be badbounces and broken-bat hits and umpires with strike zones that seem more whimthan rectangle.
But however he did it, whatever he ate and wherever he satto read the funny papers, the Giants needed Vogelsong to master them all Mondaynight. A team built on its rotation had received a grand total of two outs froma starting pitcher beyond the fifth inning in six postseason starts. ManagerBruce Bochy already had to use his Timmy Tourniquet once, and hoped to avoidusing it twice to keep him in play for a possible Game 4 start.
The Giants needed Vogelsong to pitch six innings.
He pitched seven in a 7-1 victory.
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He came through for us, Bochy said. He won the game forus. He got us deep in the game and got us a quality start, which we neededsorely. Its just nice to have him on top of his game.
He did it with a hard, running two-seamer, an effectiveslider, a show-me changeup and a sharp curve that stayed off the barrel.
Leave it to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a catcher in thenot-too-distant past, to break it down:
He controlled the counts. He used off-speed well. Usedsecondary pitches for strikes. Hes got good stuff, and when you have goodstuff and you execute in the zone and you expand it when you want to, goodthings are going to happen for you.
He set a good tempo and kept our guys off balance. Hesdone that to us a couple times now. We havent made the adjustments and hesexecuted his pitches well. Were going to have to do something different if wesee him again.
Simply put, Vogelsong is the Giants best starting pitcherthis postseason. He is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA (seven hits, two earned runs, nohome runs in 12 innings). The rest of the Giants rotation is 1-3 with a 7.59ERA (30 hits, 18 earned runs and six home runs in 21 13 innings).
He threw 68 pitches in the first three innings but saidsomething clicked after Carlos Beltrans leadoff double in the third. He workeda 10-pitch inning in the fourth and threw just 10 more in the fifth. Then heretired his final nine batters.
Its probably the best Ive thrown the ball in a big leaguegame, after the third inning, said Vogelsong, ranking the start as the best ofhis pro career, along with his Mothers Day home debut a year earlier.
I threw a pitch from the stretch and something clickedmechanically. And thats really all I can tell you. I just threw a pitch and itwas like, Thats it, right there, thats how I want to feel. I was able torun with that feeling from that point.
He didnt let anything disrupt that feeling, and heres alittle window into what its like to be one of his teammates on game day:
When asked if Vogelsong had spoken to injured second basemanMarco Scutaro, he said, I dont talk when Im pitching to anyone, other thanprobably Buster (Posey), a couple sentences about whats going on in the game.But I dont talk to anybody, period, until the games over.
Guess he wont get miked up for one of those Fox broadcasts,then.
Vogelsong said he did allow himself to soak up the momentwhen the sellout crowd stood and cheered as he walked off the mound in theseventh, and began chanting his name.
But I wasnt 100 percent sure I was done, he said. I justdont like to acknowledge the fans until Im 100 percent sure Im donepitching.
After he was handed a towel, Vogelsong realized how tired hewas. And he knew that was a good thing.
It means you know your mind was working and you were reallyconcentrating, he said. Im pretty worn down, mentally, just from trying tostay locked in.
Maybe he sleeps on the left side of the bed. Or the right.Or on a board of iron spikes.
On the mound, though, there is only the ball, the catchersglove and the pitch he must execute.
Its basically about direction, he said. One pitch, itfelt right, and I got back to where I wanted to be.
Monday night, the direction was forward -- resolutelyforward.
Beltrans hand was wrapped and there was some speculationthat he might have reinjured it in Game 2.
Beltran went on Twitter to say he was fine: My hand feelssuper good. Nothing to worry
Thats a Tweet Giants fans wouldve loved to have seen inAugust, 2011, when Beltran went down shortly after arriving from the Mets forprized pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.
Id love to go into the next three and not play at homeagain, he said.
The Cardinals had been 13-3 in Chris Carpenters 16postseason starts. They are 13-4 now. This was his second shortest of thebunch, and he tied a career high for earned runs allowed.
What did Aubrey Huff think of third base coach TimFlannerys unfailing confidence in his ability to score from second base on asingle to left?
You might expect Huff to offer a zinger in return. But hewas so pleased with touching home plate, he put the wisecracks aside.
It was Huffs first run scored since May 23, and thats nojoke. It was his first run in a postseason game since the 2010 World Series,when the kid from the scruffy section of Ft. Worth homered in Game 4 in Texas.
I was just surprised I froze on a line drive and thenrecovered and got started fast enough, Huff said. That was a good sign to dothat on my knee. I havent had as many lingering effects since the cortisoneshot. Its helped a lot.
I just want to do what I can to help this team win.
Vogelsong became the first Giants pitcher to hit a double ina postseason game since Jack Bentley in 1923 against the New York Yankees.
All youve got to do is look at my batting average to knowit was probably more luck than skill, Vogelsong said. He threw it in my swingpath, thats all I can say about it. But its cool to get in the record booksthere.
Well still take Jonathan Sanchezs triple off Mat Latos ingame No. 162 of 2010 as the most important extra-base hit by a Giants pitcher inthis millennium.
Jeremy Affeldts pitch count while throwing scorelessinnings Sunday and Monday: 8 and 8.
Wheels up in sooner than I would like. Well update you withthe latest on Marco Scutaro from St. Louis as soon as theres any word to passalong.