EXTRA BAGGS: Vogelsong's stall tactic works, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Vogelsong's stall tactic works, etc.

BOX SCORE

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.

How?

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.

BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Giants bounce back, even series

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.

Vogelsongs first postseason win was also the Giants first playoff victory at AT&T Park since Game 2 of the 2010 World Series. Itprevented them from falling into a 0-2 hole for the second consecutive series.

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.

The Cardinals would see Vogelsong again in Game 6, back hereat AT&T Park, if the series comes to that and there is no comfort in thatthought for the Redbirds.

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.

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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.

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Buster Posey was asked about how much he enjoys playing athome. He answered with a very Buster Posey answer:

Id love to go into the next three and not play at homeagain, he said.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jeremy Affeldts pitch count while throwing scorelessinnings Sunday and Monday: 8 and 8.

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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.

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said. 

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Christian Arroyo’s fingers flew across the face of his iPhone in a scene that would not be out of place in any dorm room across the country. For a moment, he was simply a young man facing an online opponent on an app, but Arroyo is far from your average 21-year-old.

Arroyo was sitting in front of a locker where a No. 22 Giants jersey hangs as a sign of what the organization thinks of the infielder. A former MVP, Jimmy Rollins, dressed a few feet away. On a flatscreen TV hanging from the ceiling, a feed showed Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford practice bunting. That group is one Arroyo hopes to soon join.

“When you get drafted by a team, your goal is to be a guy that stays around for a while,” he said. “I love it here, and to be one of those guys down the road would be awesome. There’s a lot of work to be done to get to that point, and I understand it is a business and some things work out and some things don’t, but I would definitely love to be one of those guys.”

The Giants believe strongly that he will be. It’s why they ultimately felt they had coverage when Matt Duffy — once the fourth member of that group — was traded away in the seconds before the 2016 deadline. It’s why Arroyo is wearing Will Clark’s old number. It’s why Bruce Bochy broke into a wide smile when asked about Arroyo’s month in camp last spring, when he had 10 hits — including two homers — in 18 at-bats.

“Wow — I mean, he had an impressive spring, to the point where guys are going, ‘Maybe he can help us (now),’” Bochy said. “But he needed to go to (Double-A) Richmond and play. He’s not on our radar to make the club (this spring), but what he did last spring opened a lot of eyes.”

The Giants would like Arroyo to get a full season at Triple-A and general manager Bobby Evans said they don’t feel pressure to have their top hitting prospect in the opening day lineup in 2018. Eduardo Nuñez is in the final year of his contract, but Conor Gillaspie is under team control through next season. Still, Arroyo could be a fit as soon as this summer. 

“We’ll let his development dictate the pace of his rise to the big league level,” Evans said. 

The front office will continue to move Arroyo around the diamond in Triple-A, but his future is at third base and that’s where he’ll get most of his time this season. To make the transition, Arroyo — who was drafted as a shortstop — has at times turned to a player who was once blocking him. When bench coach Ron Wotus started working him in at third last spring, Arroyo started following the lead of the incumbent. 

“I was with Duffy on the back field and we were doing our infield work,” he said. “I started turning double plays and he said, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to slow it down over here. When you’re here, you have time. If you get a double-play ball just deliver a good throw to Joe. It’s not really the speed, it’s the area that you throw it, and let Joe turn two.’

“He’s a Gold Glove second baseman,” Arroyo continued. “He’s going to turn it every time. Once I started to realize that and started to slow everything down over there, my feet were under me and my angles on the throws were right.”

Arroyo continued to work on slowing the game down during his season in Richmond, where he played 48 games at third base, 48 at shortstop, and 19 at second. He is learning the nuances of positioning, and another spring in big league camp — where Wotus regularly helps veterans grow by leaps and bounds — will only help.

At the plate, the focus is on consistently having the right approach. Arroyo showed it last spring, when he fell behind 0-2 during a televised night game and then calmly worked a full count. When he got a cutter he could handle, Arroyo pulled a two-run homer over the bullpen. Several Giants compared the approach that night to Buster Posey’s, and during the season it was continually reinforced.

“When (team executives) would come into (Richmond) and you talk to them, they tell you very specifically the exact plan for the big league level,” Arroyo said. “'Hey, get on base, keep it moving, and make stuff happen.' I understand that when I’m making stuff happen I’m not hitting home runs, I’m hitting doubles and taking walks and taking the extra base. 

“Eventually, hopefully, when I grow into my body and get a little bit stronger down the road, doubles turn into home runs and I can make things happen that way. But for now I understand what kind of player I am at this age and I’m just going to try to stay consistent at what I do and let the other things fall into place.” 

That's the attitude the Giants want Arroyo to continue to take. It’s easy for a young player to get caught up in prospect rankings or homers and RBI, but the numbers that mean the most to the Giants are the ones on Arroyo’s driver’s license. Arroyo hit .274 with a .316 on-base percentage and .373 slugging last season, but he did so in a league where the average player was more than three years older.

“When you’re playing Double-A at the age of 21 and you have 36 doubles and good defense, it stands out,” Evans said. “We challenged him by moving him around, that’s a lot to take, and he had a good year. He has a good head on his shoulders and a good approach at the plate, and he’s only going to get stronger as he grows into a man’s body. Now he’s looking at Triple-A at the age of 22 — and he’ll still be the youngest player.”

Arroyo won’t mind that. The jump to Double-A last season was a challenge, and he was happy the Giants gave it to him. He’s ready for another jump, another season of trying to stay consistent against older and more experienced players. As Arroyo sat in the clubhouse Tuesday waiting for the on-field workout to start, one veteran infielder after another walked through the door. Nuñez, Gillaspie, Rollins, Aaron Hill and others will get most of the time at third base this spring. There are limited at-bats for the prospects, but Bochy doesn’t need to see much more from Arroyo — who is 14-for-26 in two springs — to know what’s on the way. 

“He showed he can handle the bat, third base, or wherever we put him,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of time with him.”