SAN FRANCISCO Bruce Bochy calls it maniacal focus. RyanVogelsong calls it game mode.
The rest of the Giants call it a reason to poke some fun.
Well these guys give me some grief about that, saidVogelsong, after another masterful performance at AT&T Park in a 5-2victory over the Texas Rangers.
That would be the trance, or blood fever, or whatevermental and physiological transformation washes over Vogelsong in the hours before a start.It begins a day before, actually. Then, for a night game, hes no good to theworld by lunchtime. He becomes asdead quiet as detention in the library.
He's so intense, you almost expect him to turn green and bulge out of his tattered clothing.
Its probably because when I had my struggles, it alwaysgot back to that, said Vogelsong, who had a six-year hiatus from the majorleagues before discovering himself as a first-time All-Star last season.
He tries to be polite and interact with a teammate or answera question when its put to him, but
When Im in game mode, I like to stay there, he said.Its about focus and being absolutely committed to making pitches. Sometimesit starts at 12:30 in the afternoon, sometimes at 2.
These guys give me grief but sometimes thats the wayits got to be.
Even if he has to bring it home sometimes. With an afternoongame Saturday, Vogelsong had to start putting up mental walls Friday night. Howdoes that work for his wife, Nicole?
It was tough for her at first, he said. She knows. Shegets it.
Its hard to argue with the results. Vogelsong looks to bepunching his pass to another All-Star Game after putting forth another feisty,never-give-in effort. This time, he went a season-high 7 23 innings and heldthe Texas Rangers, easily the best and most dangerous offensive club in themajor leagues, to three hits. He took a shutout into the eighth.
When he handed over the baseball at 111 pitches, he had a5-1 lead and the bases empty. He had every reason to skip to his loo back tothe dugout.
Instead, he looked like he wanted to rearrange manager BruceBochys face.
What is it Bill Bixby used to say? "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
He does have that look, even when you go out to get theball, Bochy said. Thats what you want. Its one pitch at a time, and henever loses that focus. Its fun to watch because hes that way from the firstpitch of the game.
Watching Vogelsong is like watching a really good thrillermovie or spending a great day at the beach. You look up and wonder how timepassed so quickly. How is it the seventh inning, already? How is the sun aboutto go down?
But heres the most interesting thing about a Vogelsong dayat the ballpark: For all his maniacal focus, for all the internalization andthe elimination of external stimuli, hes still a pitcher who competes onemotion. It fuels him like coal in a furnace. Probably more than anyone else on the Giants staff, he lets momentumcarry him.
No wonder hes got a 1.47 ERA at AT&T Park this season.
The energy in this place, it just kind of gets me going,he said. The fans are always with us, always behind us. It gets me going. Idont know what to say other than that. I dont pitch any differently on theroad. But here, it definitely takes me to another notch.
Vogelsong wins because he never gives in. Thats the easiestway to put it. He doesnt yield to the count or the scoreboard. Hell try tomake a pitchers pitch, every time. And usually, he gets close enough.
Its pretty simple, Bochy said. Youve got to execute,and Vogey is as good as anybody. He throws four pitches and he throws them verywell. Hes been consistent all year, really. He throws hard and he commands hisfastball, which you have to do.
Said Vogelsong, after allowing just a solo homer to MitchMoreland: I had all four pitches working and I just tried to keep moving theball around on those guys. Theyre obviously a very talented offensive team. Iwas just trying to hit Busters glove and let them put it in play, and let ourguys catch it. Those guys came through today. They made bunches of nice plays.
If Vogelsong has faith in his teammates, its reciprocal. Hehas completed at least seven innings in seven of his last eight starts. Notonce has he pitched less than six innings. His 2.26 ERA is fourth best amongall major league starters.
And the Giants are 7-0 in his last seven starts.
I just try to do what Im supposed to do, he said. I justtry to stay in as long as I can, keep them off the board as long as I can, andits translating to wins right now.
Vogelsong takes a lot of pride in his work, as anyone would.But the former Kutztown University shortstop takes a lot of pride in hishitting, too. So he definitely was relieved when he singled in his first at-batto collect his first hit of the year.
Vogelsong, perhaps affected by the back stiffness that puthim on the DL to start the year, had been 0-for-20 with 18 strikeouts.
He was explaining to reporters that he had to give credit toBuster Posey and hitting coach Hensley Bam Bam Meulens for giving him someadvice. And what was it, exactly?
Dont miss the ball, came a shout from the other side ofthe clubhouse, likely Matt Cain or Jeremy Affeldt.
Posey told him he had developed an uppercut. Meulens toldhim to just let your hands go.
Throw the bat at the ball? Well, it couldnt get much worse,right?
Sometimes simple is the best way to go, right? Vogelsongsaid.
So...hell let Bochy live for taking him out?
Uhmmmm...It was getting close, getting close, he said,finally allowing himself to ease into a smile. He made the right move.