Ryan Vogelsong once again rose to the occasion with a superb seven-inning start similar to, but even better than, his effort last Monday in Game Two. This time it was one run on four hits, with one walk and a personal-best nine strikeouts. Five of the first six Cardinals batted the breeze against Vogelsong; meanwhile the Giants built a quick 4-0 lead and never looked back. For the first time in this entire postseason, the Giants' collective starting pitching is starting to resemble the dominating form showed back in 2010. That can't be good news for the opposition, no matter who they may be.
And so we come to Game Seven tonight, with Matt Cain starting against Kyle Lohse at the 'Bell; 8:00 PM EDT (5 PM local time). It's the same pitching matchup from Game Three, though likely to be conducted without a three-hour rain delay. Lohse had far more to do with the Giants' close defeat in that game than did the weather, and let's forcibly remind ourselves at this point that while the last two games have been fantastic, this series ain't over, even though it is now even. This is the same Cardinals team that rallied from 6-0 against Washington in a decisive Game Five of the NLDS, and while every Redbird from manager Mike Matheny down to the batboy knows they blew their best chance Friday night back at Busch Stadium, they have every bit of confidence they can come out tonight, right what they see as a terrible wrong, and move on to face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series beginning Wednesday night.
Speaking of wrongs, things went that way quickly for the Cards last night, as soon as everyone could see Vogelsong was making his pitches and Chris Carpenter wasn't. Faster than FOX-TV commentator Tim McCarver, the venerable ex-Cardinal catcher, could note that "location" was key to Carpenter's success, the St Louis starter fell behind each of the first four Giants he faced. Marco "Series MVP" Scutaro drew a five-pitch walk and Pablo Sandoval belted a 2-0 pitch off the wall in center. Buster Posey then clipped a grounder up the line at third that took a funny hop and seemed to freeze David Freese for a moment; he looked homeward, but sensibly thought better of it and threw Posey out instead as Scutaro scored the game's first run. Carpenter struck out struggling Hunter Pence on a 2-2 sinker and knew he was fortunate to get out of that one with minimal damage. The lefty hitters who faced him in the second were less cooperative. Leading off, Brandon Belt-ed the loudest shot of the night, a rocket that caromed off the brick tower in right and bounced around long enough for Belt to leg out a triple. Carpenter fanned the clearly overeager Gregor Blanco, then walked Brandon Crawford to set up the double-play opportunity with Vogelsong due up. As Ryan showed bunt, Freese came in and shortstop Pete Kozma took a step toward second. Vogelsong then drew it back and slapped a grounder to the exact spot Kozma had vacated. Rushing to make the play, Kozma fumbled the ball instead, Belt scoring and all hands safe. Again, Carpenter got the K he needed against Angel Pagan, but that only brought up Scutaro, who drilled a 1-1 pitch into the left-field corner, clearing the bases as the SRO 'Bell crowd went completely bananas. Sandoval followed with a RBI shot up the middle, making it 5-0, and the three unearned runs made a positively appalling NLCS total of ten for the team which allowed the fewest such over the regular season. Ain't it crazy?
It wasn't until the sixth that St Louis finally touched Vogelsong for a run, with the ubiquitous Carlos Beltran's one-out double followed by a RBI single from Allen (.150) Craig. "Vogey" finished the frame, received a standing O as he walked to the dugout, and gave way to Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and the unsinkable Sergio Romo for the final six outs. Meanwhile, Matheny needed three pitchers just to get through the eighth, where Ryan Theriot, the man who lost his job to Scutaro at midseason, emulated him capably with a two-out RBI single to put the lead back at five. Scant minutes later, Romo led the on-field congratulations as Angel Pagan settled under Daniel Descalso's gentle fly ball for the game's final out.
Perhaps it'd be a tad redundant to recount Vogelsong's amazing journey from 'phenom' to trade bait to has-been to never-was to the unlikeliest of heroes, and in any case the man himself showed gratitude to God and to his teammates during an impromptu post-game interview with the engaging Erin Andrews. For now, and for those of you who weren't assiduously following our every word back in spring training 2011, we'll append the comments we made back then regarding Ryan's prospects, and let them stand as written for perspective on baseball, life, and what have you. From February 19, 2011:
Anyone else notice that Nick Noonan, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Ryan Vogelsong are all among the non-roster invitees to camp? (T)he name that caught
our attention first and actually prompted this portion of the screed was Vogelsong's. Here's a dude who was a Giant prospect back in 1998, and three years later was the key to the Jason Schmidt trade. He never made it in the majors, winning a total of ten games in about seven years, and the story went that Sabean had unloaded him as damaged goods on the unsuspecting Pirates. Now 33, he's been out of the big show since 2006. While we hope all 22 of these NRIs do well and land a job somewhere, it'd be a treat if Vogelsong has enough left to catch on with the Giants and maybe contribute out of the bullpen down the stretch.