Just call Vogelsong the Giants' staff ace

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Just call Vogelsong the Giants' staff ace

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MIAMI To understand the stuff thats inside RyanVogelsong, you only need to understand what went through his mind after Marlinsslugger Giancarlo Stanton went all Cape Canaveral on him with a 434-foot boosterrocket in the second inning Thursday night.

Hes a good hitter. Hes strong, Vogelsong said. Ichallenged him. He hit it. Next time up, I challenged him again.

Vogelsong competes with no slack on his line. So he did notshrink when Stanton destroyed a two-seamer that was supposed to run on hishands.

The next at-bat, I threw him four or five in a row, saidVogelsong, who ended up dusting him on a changeup.

Then in the fifth, Stanton came up with the bases loaded. Itwas the games biggest moment. Vogelsong had to play Press Your Luck with ahitter who owned two grand slams in four at-bats with the bags juiced thisseason.

He threw a called, first-pitch fastball. Then an offspeedpitch for a ball. Then another fastball that stayed off the barrel. Stantonnearly scraped the roof on his foul pop, but it ended up in first basemanBrandon Belts glove.

No slammies.

And right there, you begin to understand why Vogelsong canbe rightly called the ace of the Giants staff.

Hes matched up against Anibal Sanchez, whos virtuallyowned the Giants, and Clayton Kershaw, who practically had the carbon paper toprove it stuffed in a filing cabinet somewhere.

After Thursdays 14-7 victory, Vogelsong can say hes beatenthem both.

Thats what aces do. And its been such a vitalcontribution, since the Giants remain in wait-and-hope mode that their erstwhileace, Tim Lincecum, will find his inner freak.

Lincecum has one quality start in nine outings. Vogelsonghas seven in eight.

Vogelsong would have a 2.17 ERA after Thursday, but theGiants bullpen allowed his two inherited runners to score in the seventhinning. So he stands at 2.50, which still ranks as the lowest among the Giantsstarting five.

Vogelsong is doing it despite a reduced strikeout rate (6.33per nine innings, down from 7.0), a higher walk rate (3.83, up from 3.1) and a shorterfastball (89.4 mph entering Thursday, down from 91.6) from last year. Hesdoing it by making confident yet smart pitches to get out of jams. Hes doing it by not coweringfrom big situations against dangerous hitters.

He's doing it because the stuff inside counts, too.

Vogelsong keeps insisting that his lower back is not an issue.Maybe it is. Maybe it isnt. Or maybe hes simply refusing to let it be one.

Either way, if he keeps it up, hell streak toward another All-Starappearance. And he won't need his own manager to pick him this time. Aces seldom get snubbed.

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

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Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0 for 4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

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SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.