Pagan, Vogelsong steer Giants to fifth consecutive win


Pagan, Vogelsong steer Giants to fifth consecutive win

SAN FRANCISCO Ryan Vogelsongs rut lasted two starts.Angel Pagan skidded on the shoulder for the better part of July.

They both had different triggers for setting themselvesright again. And without those course corrections, the Giants wouldve stood littlechance against the Atlanta Braves Friday night.

For Pagan, it was the move to the leadoff spot on Aug. 3.Since then, hes batting .391 and has scored 27 runs in 21 games. He had fourmore hits and crossed the plate three times to help the streaking Giantsovercome an early deficit in a 5-3 victory at AT&T Park.

For Vogelsong, it was a trip to the video room and a sessionwith pitching coach Dave Righetti following two rough outings in which he mighthave been giving away his pitches. Vogelsong had dismissed his eight-run,2.2-inning start against Washington as a fluke. But then after the Padresharassed him in three innings

With all those foul balls, I knew something had to be goingon, Vogelsong said. Something needed to be adjusted. My direction towardthe plate needed to get better. I was swinging off the ball, maybe showing theball too early.

Sure, Vogelsong allowed three home runs, which matched hiscareer high set April 20, 2004 at Pittsburgh. That day, the Cubs Alex Gonzalezgot him twice and Todd Walker also took him deep. (That was another life,Vogelsong said.)

This time, it was Jason Heyward in the first, FreddieFreeman in the second and Freeman again on the last pitch he threw in theseventh.

But in between, Vogelsong had life on his cutter andtwo-seamer again. He only allowed one other hit while leading the Giants totheir season high-tying fifth consecutive victory.

And the starters won all five, right? Vogelsong said.

And the starters won all five. Exactly right.

You wouldnt think that to be a rare feat, especially for apitching-rich organization like this one. But the Giants hadnt accomplishedthat since April 20-25, 2007. Back then, it was Russ Ortiz, Barry Zito, MattCain, Matt Morris and Noah Lowry.

April of 2007 might sound strangely familiar to you, and forgood reason. When the Giants finished their sweep in LA on Wednesday, it markedtheir first at Dodger Stadium since April 24-26, 2007. As it happened, Morrisand Lowry won the first two games of that series.

The lesson: It always begins with starting pitching. Always.

Vogelsong wasnt aware how rare it was for the starters towin five in a row. He was just glad to keep the streak alive.

Here lately, Im the only one not holding up my end of thebargain, he said. I just wanted a piece of the action.

Its all action all the time with Pagan, who said getting back to aleadoff mentality is what allowed him to keep a better approach. He's hittimg .514 with a .552 on-base percentage over an eight-game hitting streak, while scoring 28 runs in 21 games since moving back to the leadoff spot.

When youre a leadoff hitter, youre not there to hit ahome run, he said. Youre there to get a hit and get on base.

Heres how dedicated he is to that proposition: When heneeded a home run for the cycle, he didnt even try for it. He singled up themiddle, instead.

Well I hit a ball pretty good and it didnt go, saidPagan, of his triple off the bricks in the fourth. So why would I want to gofor that? I wanted to get on base again.

And again, and again, and again

This is the best Ive felt and I think its at the righttime, when the team needs it the most, Pagan said. When you know you can givethe pitcher two strikes and still be confident, thats where you want to be.

First place is a good place to be, too.

Right now were playing the best weve played all season, andwe have to keep it up, Pagan said. What other teams do, thats theirbusiness. Were in first place and weve got to protect that.

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.