SAN FRANCISCO – At the outset Saturday night, Pablo Sandoval didn’t make it easy for Ryan Vogelsong. The third baseman booted the game’s first chance for an error, tapping his chest as he tossed the ball back to the mound.
Sandoval would make amends soon enough. And Vogelsong was unforgiving only to the Minnesota Twins.
The right-hander sure knows how to author a resurgence, doesn’t he? In a span of six outings, Vogelsong has transitioned from worrisome No. 5 starter to one of the NL’s finest pitchers. He yielded just three hits in 6 2/3 innings and Sandoval hit his fourth home run in six games as the Giants captured a 2-1 victory at AT&T Park.
Sandoval’s home run led off the second inning and came on an 0-2 pitch from Samuel Deduno. The Panda’s sacrifice fly in the sixth also came on an 0-2 breaking pitch.
Surprisingly, they were his first RBIs with two strikes – any two-strike count – all season.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong had a 7.71 ERA and averaged 13.2 hits per nine innings over his first four starts, when fans and some in the media began to murmur about things like ropes and leashes.
In six starts since then, Vogelsong has a 1.35 ERA. And he’s allowing just 6.05 hits per nine innings.
He threw 107 pitches and all but a handful were wriggling snakes that Posey caught with a frozen glove. Vogelsong walked Trevor Plouffe in the first inning but stranded two runners when Josmil Pinto struck out on a perfectly placed fastball.
Eduardo Escobar and Joe Mauer hit one-out doubles in the second and third innings, respectively. But Vogelsong was just as precise out of the stretch as he was from the windup. He retired 13 of 14 batters after Mauer’s double, and would have exited to a standing ovation after seven innings. But after fielding Aaron Hicks’ comebacker, Vogelsong made the one throw all night he might have regretted. His simple lob to first base sailed high for an error, and with 107 pitches, Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen.
Vogelsong (3-2) still got his ovation. He just didn’t get to walk to the dugout with the rest of his teammates.
Juan Gutierrez got a ground out to strand Vogelsong’s runner. Then Gutierrez and Jeremy Affeldt combined to work a scoreless eighth inning.
Romo, pitching for the first time since he blew a save Tuesday at Colorado, didn’t settle any stomachs when Pinto led off the ninth with a line drive home run that scraped the fence in the left field corner.
But Romo retired the next three hitters. When pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki hit a two-out dribbler back to the mound, Romo’s underhand to first base was exactly where it needed to be. Romo has 16 saves in 18 chances.
At the plate
Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno is something less than a household name, but he became a very big deal back home in the Dominican Republic the previous time he pitched at AT&T Park. Deduno spun five shutout innings as the Dominican squad beat Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic title here last year.
Good thing for him Sandoval isn’t from Puerto Rico.
Deduno was tough in 5 2/3 innings, but Sandoval hammered an 0-2 breaking ball to the opposite field and through the blustery night air for his fourth home run in six games.
The solo shot came in the second inning and gave the Giants the all-important first blood. They’re now 23-4 when they score first.
The Giants didn’t score again until the sixth, when Angel Pagan hit a leadoff single and Hunter Pence drew a walk. Buster Posey surprise the ballpark when he fouled off a first-pitch bunt attempt. Posey had struck out and grounded out earlier in the game, so perhaps he wasn’t seeing Deduno well. Or perhaps the irritated nerve in his back was acting up again.
Either way, now lacking the element of surprise, Posey didn’t try to bunt again. Instead he hit what should have been a double-play grounder to shortstop, but the Twins couldn’t turn it and Posey avoided a swipe tag at first base when the throw went wide.
With one out instead of two, and runners at the corners, Sandoval’s deep fly ball to the warning track in right field became a sacrifice fly. It was another 0-2 breaking ball from Deduno.
The 0-2 pitches would be notable in any context. They are especially so for Sandoval, who entered with a .063 average (5 for 79 with 34 strikeouts) when hitting with two strikes.
Sandoval and Vogelsong made the errors? Eh … all is forgotten.
The Giants announced 41,724 paid on a brisk night, but no, you’re not allowed to complain to someone from Minnesota that it’s cold.
The Giants and Twins wrap up their three-game series on Sunday at AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner (5-3, 3.38 ERA) takes the mound against right-hander Ricky Nolasco (2-4, 5.50). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.