Vogelsong makes case for playoff rotation

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Vogelsong makes case for playoff rotation

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LOS ANGELES Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he wouldannounce his NL Division Series rotation the entire rotation followingThursdays optional workout at AT&T Park.

Ryan Vogelsong did his best to make it an arduous decisionin Wednesdays regular-season finale.

Thats probably the best Ive thrown the ball all season,said Vogelsong, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, when an error keptthe team on the field and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw followed with an RBIsingle. I thought I didnt miss a pitch till Kershaw got that breaking ballthere.

Vogelsong did not receive a decision after throwing 71pitches over five innings. He finished with a 14-9 record and 3.37 ERA, comingup just short in a bid to join Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito inthe 15-win club.

More importantly, he allowed just one earned run over hisfinal three starts a run that more closely approximated those fantastic firstfour months, when he was the NL ERA leader as late as Aug. 8.

He threw great, Bochy said. Good stuff, good command.Like with Matt Cain, we got him where we wanted him. He pitched very well. Hesall set to go. Now its a matter of setting up this rotation and deciding howwe want to do things.

Like with Cain? Does that suggest Vogelsong is being groomedto start, perhaps as early as Game 3 in Cincinnati?

Sure, possibly, Bochy said. But also in case we want touse him the first couple games, wed have him available.

Vogelsong, for all his intensity, said he wouldnt try to lobbyfor a start.

I just tried to treat today like a playoff game, mentally,said Vogelsong, who is the only member of the Giants rotation who hasntpitched in one. Personally, Id love to have the opportunity to start aplayoff game. But at this point, its not about me. Its about us. If the bestdecision is for me to go to the bullpen, thats what Im going to do.

Well know soon enough.

Many fans would say the simplest thing to do is sendLincecum, clearly the worst of the five starters over the long haul this season,to the bullpen. But Bochy has spoken many times about Lincecums ability toperform when the lights come on. I think theres still a level of belief thatTimmy will come through, despite finishing with the worst ERA (5.18) of 46 NLpitchers who qualified for the ERA title.

Im not saying this is how the Giants will go, but if itsup to me, I would start Cain and Bumgarner in the first two games, then startLincecum in Game 3. You can usually tell if Lincecum is on or off within the first10 pitches. If hes off, Id pull the ripcord and use Vogelsong as yourparachute.

That way, if Lincecum does pitch well and the series goes toGame 4, you can start Zito (with Vogelsong providing backup again). Bochy canalways reserve the right to turn to Cain on short rest, too.

In the postseason, its all about keeping your options open.And hopefully, you like most of them.

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for Game 2 of the four-game series in Chicago:

Giants (20-26)
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P (4-3, 4.50 ERA)

Cubs (22-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Willson Contreras (R) C
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
9. Jon Lester (L) P (2-2, 3.57 ERA)

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.