Former pro wrestler Superstar Billy Graham had one of the greatest raps of all-time. One of them could be used to describe Ryan Vogelsong tonight.
“I’m the man of the hour, the man with power, too sweet to be sour.”
And while Vogelsong may not eat t-bone steaks (we know he eats enchiladas), lift barbell plates, and I’m not sure if he’s really sweater than a German chocolate cake (Cardinals hitters would disagree), the man known as Vogey to Giants fans pitched the game of his life on Sunday night. I used that same phrase to describe Barry Zito’s start on Friday and it’s not just for my own lack of creativity. Both men, with their team’s back against the wall, pitched the games of their life.
Like I’ve mentioned throughout this series, when the Giants left to St. Louis, their goal was always to get back to Vogelsong. It would mean they were coming home with a chance to win. While the #RallyZito Twitter brigade was created because of some nervous energy and a little dispair, there wasn’t any of that on Sunday. Vogelsong has been the Giants’ best starting pitcher in the postseason. He’s been dominant with his fastball, challenging Reds’ and especially Cardinals’ hitters on the inside corner. It’s the type of fastball dominance Giants fans are used to seeing from Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.All along, I’ve kept a pretty consistent theme with these columns as it pertains to the Giants’ strategy. Their momentum derives from strong starting pitching. When their starting pitcher throws zeroes up on the board like Vogelsong (twice) and Zito have done, the offense plays with a swagger and confidence that they don’t when they get down early. And it makes sense. The three players on the Giants who make the most money in 2012 are starting pitchers. The Giants invest as a team in starting pitching and will continue to do so (Cain was re-upped to a huge deal before the season started and Madison Bumgarner signed a long deal in mid-April). When that starting pitching comes through, the team can look unstoppable.
After Friday night, the Giants fans on Twitter were trying to figure out how to inspire themselves again like they did with #RallyZito. I saw #RallyVogey and #RallyVogie, but my favorite was #RallyEnchiladas. Hardcore Giants fans knew that Vogelsong ate chicken enchiladas the night before every start. His wife, @NicoleVogelsong tweeted late Saturday about her husband’s enchiladas and included a photo.They must’ve been the ralliest enchiladas of all time. On Sunday, Vogelsong’s fastball was popping Buster Posey’s mitt at 94 MPH in the first inning. And it had more life to it than it had all second half of the season. Vogelsong was at one point during the season, the National League leader in ERA. But at the end of August, his 2.22 ERA shot up to 3.02. His first three starts in September were among the worst of the entire season. But he closed the end of the regular season strong (or Vogelstrong), giving up just one earned run in seventeen innings. He continued that in his first and second postseason starts and on Sunday night, he topped them both.
The first time throughout the order, he fanned six of nine Cardinals hitters. He didn’t give up a hit until there were two out in the fifth inning. He didn’t give up a run until the sixth inning on an Allen Craig two-out base-hit. When it was all said and done, Vogelsong went seven innings, giving up four hits, one run, and striking out a career-high nine batters. In his three postseason starts combined, he’s gone nineteen innings, giving up just eleven hits and three earned runs. His second season has been magnificent.
The Giants were on top early, scoring five runs in the first and second innings. Buster Posey grounded out in the first, scoring Marco Scutaro for the Giants first run. St. Louis’ defense fell apart in the second. Bruce Bochy put the butcher boy play on with Ryan Vogelsong up, runners on first and third, and just one out. Vogelsong squared to bunt, but pulled it back and tapped one to Cards’ shortstop Pete Kozma who was leaning toward second and couldn’t get a handle on it, scoring Brandon Belt. Then Marco Scutaro’s double plated Brandon Crawford (who had been intentionally walked) and Vogelsong and he scored on Pablo Sandoval’s single. The Giants would add one more in the eighth, on a pinch-hit single by Ryan Theriot.(Bochy was in a similar situation with Matt Cain in game three. I read many tweets that agreed with Bochy’s idea to have Cain bunt with runners on first and third and just one out because it would keep them out of a possible double play. But others, like me, disagreed with the move because giving away an out took all the chance out of the play that Cain could possible do something that would score the run. The odds of scoring the run with two outs are greatly decreased. Giants beat writer Hank Schulman went on a rampage to defend the move saying that he was dumbfounded by tweets saying that Bochy should’ve let Cain swing away. Not surprisingly, he mentioned nothing of Bochy going against that move on Sunday night.)
Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo closed the game down in non-tortuous fashion and now, the Giants are one win away from coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS and going to the World Series for the second time in three years. For the Cards, the pressure was on them to quickly win game five so that they could get some rest before facing the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. The Tigers swept the New York Yankees and haven’t played since October 18. But after the Giants won game five, the pressure was on them to win one game in San Francisco. Now, in game seven, it’s the Cards whose backs are against the wall.
Both teams are built from the same fabric. They are never-say-die teams. The Cardinals won an improbable World Series last year where they continually had to battle from behind to defeat the Texas Rangers. The Giants are now 5-0 in elimination games in this year’s postseason (Cards are 1-0, beating Washington in game five of the NLDS).
It’s Matt Cain vs. Kyle Lohse (and more than likely each team’s strong bullpen) for all the National League marbles. They faced off Wednesday in a game marred by a rain delay. Lohse out-dueled Cain, though both pitchers struggled. Lohse allowed twelve base runners in his five and two-thirds innings. Cain allowed a two-run home run to Mr. October Matt Carpenter and that was all the difference as the Giants could only plate one run. Interestingly enough, it’s supposed to rain in San Francisco on Monday just like it did on Wednesday. The outlook is a little clearer, but no matter what, the weather shouldn’t dampen either team’s spirits. It’s yet another elimination game. Both teams are undefeated in them.
Someone’s 0 has got to go.
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