The only shame was that Ryan Vogelsong wasn’t able to make an accurate throw to first base on Aaron Hicks’ comebacker. That kept him from completing seven innings for the fourth time in his last six starts, but the big picture is still gorgeous these days for San Francisco’s favorite grumpy pitcher after Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
It’s amazing how heartwarming it can be to root for a guy who looks so damned angry while he does his job. But make no mistake, everyone roots for Vogelsong. That includes Giants fans, Vogelsong’s teammates, those in the front office and on the coaching staff who vouched for him and wanted him back for one more run … even the media (guilty as charged!). The only ones rooting against Vogelsong these days are fans of other National League West teams and maybe a small/insane subsection of Giants fans who’d like to save face after screaming on social media that his career was done after an awful 2013.
Vogelsong got knocked around in Spring Training, but he stayed positive throughout March. It became difficult to believe Vogelsong’s faith in his stuff was warranted when he kicked off April with three bad outings in his first four starts. The fourth was the worst, an inning and a third at Coors that ended with an 8-2 loss and an ERA of 7.71 for Vogelsong. Since that woeful start: 40 innings, 1.35 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 6.1 H/9, and no homers allowed after giving up five dingers in his first 16.1 innings.
Most of all, the same sense of calm we all remember is back. His pitch count got up there pretty quickly on Saturday night, but that’s Vogelsong — he’s not in a hurry. He works slower than most starters (especially with men on base), and he’s just fine with at-bats where the counts get deep and the battles with hitters seem to almost get personal. They probably do for Vogelsong in some cases.
The Twins took a lot of pitches in this game. They watched 24 of Vogelsong’s first 36 go by, and took strike three five times (Vogelsong had seven strikeouts total). I asked Vogelsong if catching five guys looking was the most he could remember in his big league career, and his response was kind of hilarious.
“Man, I don’t know. I’ve been playing this game a long time, buddy. My mind’s not that good,” said Vogelsong, who responded with a little less sass to my follow-up question about the Twins being patient at the plate.
“Watching Timmy last night, I saw they were spitting on some pitches that were pretty close. All the studying I did, I saw it’s something that they do. I just really tried to attack the strike zone and get ahead and get in counts I wanted to be in and make them have to swing the bat.”
As for the offense, that was taken care of by Pablo Sandoval. He hit his fourth homer in six games, a shot just over the left field wall in the second inning. Sandoval drove in the second run in the sixth on a very high and fairly deep sacrifice fly just to the right of triple’s alley to score Angel Pagan.
— As expected, the Giants will skip Matt Cain’s next start. They aren’t putting him on the disabled list (yet).
— Sergio Romo added a little drama in the ninth when he tried to sneak a fastball past Josmil Pinto. Pinto smacked a line drive homer into the ambulance area in the left field corner, the fourth home run Romo has allowed this season in 22 innings. That means Romo has allowed 1.6 HR per nine innings — his previous high for a season was 0.9 in 2010.
— After Bochy answered our questions (and uttered a choice one-liner or two) about the health of Cain, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and others before the game, I watched the Giants take batting practice for a few rounds. Sandoval was the first hitter I saw; while swinging from the left side, he drove pitch after pitch to left field. He wasn’t the only one — Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Michael Morse were all in the same group and they each hit almost every pitch thrown by Billy Hayes the other way. Then Sandoval hit his third opposite-field homer in the span of a week in his first at-bat of the game.
— I asked Sandoval whether hitting to all fields was something he had to constantly think about or if he had to make a mechanical adjustment. Based on his answer, it’s a mental fix that came from watching old video.
“When I was hitting good … in 2011 … I tried to hit the ball in the gaps, try to let the (pitch) get deep. So that’s what I’m doing now, watching those pitches so I get the adjustment, try to get comfortable and patient at home plate. Not try to do too much.”
— While Sandoval is positively on fire, Posey is in a funk. He tried to bunt with runners on first and second and no out in the sixth. The ball went foul back over the screen, as Posey ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice. Yeah, Posey — an MVP who has no sacrifice bunts in his professional career (minors, MLB regular season or postseason). Bochy said Posey’s bunt attempt was because he saw an opportunity to advance the runners and that it had nothing to do with his recent back injury.
— Sergio Romo could definitely close for the team listed above.
— Maybe Vogelsong gave me a little attitude because of this:
“2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” playing loudly in Giants clubhouse after a Vogey win, just like the baseball Gods intended
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) May 25, 2014
Right now the Giants and A’s are “two of the best from the West Side.” In fact, the Giants have the best record in the Majors right now at 31-18.