25 straight batters retired. Even when Matt Cain has a performance like that, like he did in the home opener against Pittsburgh, it’s a huge deal. Ryan Vogelsong didn’t pitch a shutout today, he pitched 7 shutout innings. But the full story of today’s brilliant outing actually started on Monday night against the Colorado Rockies.
Vogelsong picked up a no-decision that night, but his line looked pretty similar … except for one category (hint: the abbreviation starts with “B” and ends with “B”).
The Wilin Rosario homer accounted for the only run allowed, and after that blast Vogelsong retired the last 12 Rockies he faced. It was a great comeback story, since Vogelsong walked 3 in the 1st and 2 in the 3rd, and it looked doubtful that’d he’d last four innings, let alone seven. He tried several “adjustments” in that game, and nothing really worked until he focused on nothing besides his target.
“I started just trying to throw the ball through Buster. That’s really what got me going,” Vogelsong said on Monday.
Vogelsong certainly took that momentum and put it to good use today, but how? “I think I kind of stumbled on something at the end of the Rockies game,” he said after Saturday’s win, “I just tried to run with that today, and my command was better today.”
I asked Vogelsong if that something he stumbled on was the idea of throwing the ball through Buster. “Yeah, I try to keep it as simple as I can sometimes. That was a big key today was pick up the glove and try to throw through (Posey’s) chest. That really helps me stay on line,” he said.
Vogelsong’s a guy who thinks a lot about his mechanics, and today he said he needs to be “a mechanical pitcher,” which means more that his success depends on absolute concentration than pitching like a robot. In concentrating on one specific task, one that pitchers have been taught from Little League on, he was able to avoid anything resembling a stressful inning.
Instead of walking 5 over three innings, Vogelsong instead retired the first 13 batters he faced today. And after Seth Smith singled with one out in the 5th, Vogelsong got Josh Donaldson to ground into a double play. After Daric Barton walked to lead off the 6th, Vogelsong retired six straight. Maybe he’ll keep his new streak going in his next start against the Chicago Cubs.
After making an All-Star team and starting off this year the way he has (lowest ERA on the team) after suffering back pain during Spring Training, does Vogelsong feel like he’s proven his worth as a Major League starter?
“No, I think I need to do it for the whole season,” Vogelsong said. “I still feel like I have a lot to prove.”
You can’t knock Vogelsong’s mindset, but feel free to disagree.
The HBP that was (or wasn’t)
— So, did Vogelsong take one in the chest after showing bunt in the 7th inning, before Giants scored all their runs? Home plate umpire James Hoye said Tyson Ross’ pitch hit Vogelsong, who didn’t complain after Howe awarded him first base. When Lowell Cohn asked him about lying on the ground for several seconds after the pitch, Vogelsong said, “It scared the shit out of me. 90-plus mile an hour ball coming at your face. Scares you a little bit.”
— More Vogelsong, who at times was smiling as he talked about the incident: “I wasn’t acting. Something hit me in the chest. Whether it was my bat or the ball, something made contact with me. I didn’t know what it was. I thought I got hit. I think I’m a pretty tough guy, so I just tried to get up and make sure all my parts were in place. I looked at (Hoye) and said, ‘That ball hit me, right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.'”
— Posey’s ability not just as a game caller, but as a receiver, is underrated. It says something that he can provide a calming influence during stressful times for Vogelsong, who hasn’t worked with Posey all that much in his career. But Posey wasn’t just a good target for Vogelsong to “throw through,” he also drove in the Giants’ second run with a double to triples alley that took an unfortunate hop into the stands (the fan who stuck his hand out to grab the ball didn’t help, as the ball may have bounced back onto the field and allowed Gregor Blanco to score). Here’s Posey after the game giving really long answers to questions (just kidding):
— The Giants once again replayed the day’s Triple Crown race on the video board, but this time it didn’t delay the action like when the Giants played almost the entire Kentucky Derby and made Javier Lopez wait before he could throw his first pitch to Travis Ishikawa. Then again, the Derby is a longer race than the Preakness. Side note: I will definitely watch the Belmont Stakes and root like hell for I’ll Have Another. It’s about time we get a Triple Crown horse to obsess over.
— Blanco led off the game with a strikeout, but it came after a 3-2 count. The Giants took Ross to full counts three times in the 1st, and Blanco (who walked twice) seems to have led a change in this team that seemed impossible. 33 walks over the past five games after 5 more today. For this team, the change in approach has been stunning.
— Carlos Beltran is leading the National League in homers, but the outfield production hasn’t been the Giants’ problem. Blanco collected an infield hit and 2 walks. Melky Cabrera (.337/.382/.479) had 2 more hits, moving him to second in the NL behind Michael Bourn. Angel Pagan had a 20-game hit streak, went hitless for one day and now has a 10-gamer going.
— I was one of the only bloggers against re-signing Beltran — not because he isn’t a talented player, but because signing him at this stage of his career means one of your best players will be day-to-day all season long:
Now, here is Beltran in his first year as a Cardinal, happy and in great shape, and feeling the same spirit of emotional rejuvenation, you know, as long as his lower body agrees to come along. He just missed four games resting his right knee, which became achy because he was nursing his right foot, which was stricken with plantar fasciitis.
These things seem to find Beltran, then rattle around inside him, taking body parts as they do. But, on the afternoon Craig was forced back to the disabled list, Beltran found himself at Dodger Stadium, discovering just enough life in that knee to bleed most of nine innings out of it later that night.
And while he drifted around in right field come game time, sneaking up on balls rather than charging through them, Beltran did deliver two more hits.
— Plus, Beltran wasn’t signing with the Giants for the same deal he agreed to with the Cardinals. No way. Too cold here, not a strong enough lineup to withstand his frequent absences.
— Sorry for that ill-timed Beltran outburst … I’m guessing I probably lost a few of you there. So I’ll leave you with this little story from the clubhouse. Ryan Leong, who I sit next to sometimes in the press box, has worked in radio around here for a long time and has contributed to BASG before. We were waiting by Posey’s locker, and while talking and gesticulating with his hands as he often does, he moved his microphone suddenly and the top two pieces (the foam part and a plastic piece) flew through the air and onto the floor. A smiling Sergio Romo said, “Looks like you hit the eject button,” which drew laughs from everyone within earshot.