SAN FRANCISCO Ryan Vogelsong woke up with a worried mindMonday morning.
Three guys pitched into the ninth? Thats a little pressureto follow, the All-Star right-hander said.
But Vogelsong followed suit, and the Giants finally timedtheir trump card to sweep a series and complete what could become aseason-defining homestand.
Their 3-2 victory over the distracted, defeated Chicago Cubsgave them six wins in seven games at AT&T Park and the Giants did it byestablishing the exact paradigm that they envisioned.
RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 3, Cubs 2
Pitching. Defense. More pitching. Timely hits. Goodbaserunning. And Tony Bennett.
The Giants were 12-10 at AT&T Park before this homestandbegan, and they trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers by 7 games in the NL West.They are now back to their winning ways at Third and King and they are within2 games as their archrivals prepare to take the field Monday night.
In completing their first sweep of the season (a four-gamer, no less), the Giants' rotation was brilliant. The starting pitcherscombined for a 1.55 ERA while completing seven innings and giving up fewer thantwo runs in all seven games. Its just the second time in San Franciscofranchise history the club has received seven consecutive starts of that ilk.They had a run of nine in a row in 1988-- from Don Robinson, Mike LaCoss (twice), Kelly Downs (twice), Atlee Hammaker,Terry Mulholland (twice) and Rick Reuschel.
Its hard to beat that, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Said catcher Buster Posey: To me, I feel like theyve beendoing it all year a couple years since Ive been here, really.
The difference this time? The Giants played errorless ballin their six victories. They committed just one error on the entire homestand.And thats after leading the majors in miscues for most of the season.
Not only are the fielders playing clean games, they also aremaking plays to pick up the pitching staff. Witness Ryan Theriots highlightsweep-and-grab play on Starlin Castro to keep the tiebreaking run from scoringin the seventh inning. The play ended Vogelsongs afternoon, and the Giantsmade a winner of him when Posey who walked four times -- scored in the bottomof the seventh.
I gave him a big hug after that one, Vogelsong said of Theriot.Its pretty amazing. You dont see a guy sweep at it like that and have it popup. Its a pretty athletic play to barehand it and throw in one motion.
That play probably saved the game for us.
Said Theriot: I was hoping it was in my glove. My hand wasnumb, it was hit so hard. It was in my glove briefly, and luckily, it came upright in front of me.
The Giants are playing crisper and smarter than theircompetition, although against the Cubs, thats like matching wits against theguy from Sling Blade. (Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro probably wont enjoy theflight back to the Midwest after losing track of the outs while the Giants tiedthe score on a fielders choice in the fifth inning.)
They are even finding ways to time their contributions,whether its the offense sneaking out runs despite a total power outage (onehomer in their last 19 home games seriously) or the bullpen finding ways topiece together the ninth despite a rash of injuries, or the starters workingdeep to give the bullpen a break.
It was Jeremy Affeldts turn on Monday. With SantiagoCasilla unavailable because of a bruised knee and Sergio Romo also questionablebecause of a knee issue, Affeldt pitched the final two innings without allowinga baserunner to pick up the save.
We have a bullpen who can do it, are able to do it and havethe stuff to do it, Affeldt said. Obviously, were getting it done so itseasy to say that.
They are getting the rest to do it, too. The bullpen onlyneeded to throw 10 23 innings out of 64 on the homestand. Thats fewer thanfive outs per game. And Affeldt said the relievers needed the break, after beinggassed when the club finished a stretch of 20 games in 20 days last Sunday.
The only thing the Giants lacked on the homestand was a goodol blowout victory to rest a few starters like Angel Pagan or Melky Cabrera.The aggregate score over the seven games was 19-13.
No surprise, really, since the Giants havent found anextension cord at AT&T Park. They have played 13 consecutive home gameswithout going deep the second longest in San Francisco-era franchise history(behind a 15-game streak in 1980) and the longest by a major league team sincethe Dodgers had a 14-game power outage at home in 1992.
Is it really sustainable? Can the Giants keep winning withRBI ground outs and a string of singles?
Well, weve done it, Bochy said. Not quite lacking thepower like we are right now. But when you have an added dimension like speed,thats going to show up every day.
The home runs are nice and I think we will hit more. I do.Were in a rut now but Pablo (Sandoval) will be coming back soon.
For now, were going with defense. Any time you win theseone-run games, its pitching and defense. Really, thats what is doing it.
What, should Vogelsong worry?
Weve talked about it, he said. You have to learn how towin and I think were starting to do that.