“He did everything he wanted to do to us,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said.
From early on, Vogelsong could go after the Cardinals in an efficient, relaxed manner because he was pitching with a cushion. The Giants got a run off Carpenter in the first, and when the Cardinals made one mistake in the second — shortstop Pete Kozma’s error with one out and two on — San Francisco pounced. Marco Scutaro smashed a two-out, two-run double, Pablo Sandoval followed with a run-scoring single and the Giants led 5-0. AT&T Park rocked, and Vogelsong hadn’t yet sent them into a frenzy.
Said Vogelsong: “When I’m standing on the mound tonight, and they’re chanting ‘Vog-ey!,’ it just makes you want to get the job done for them.”
How much of this performance grew from his road here is impossible to say. What’s not is that he waited a long time for a moment like Sunday’s. Originally drafted by the Giants in 1998, he made his major league debut with San Francisco two years later. But in the summer of 2001, he was traded to Pittsburgh. Thus began his odyssey.
He pitched two games for the Pirates before he required Tommy John surgery. He lost his first 11 major league decisions. His first full season as a starter, 2004, he went 6-13 with an ungodly 6.50 ERA. His ERA for his five seasons in Pittsburgh: An even 6.00. That led to three seasons in Japan, from whence players seldom return.
Somehow, Vogelsong did. It took stints in the minors with three teams, the last the Giants. But he got back. How, exactly, is hard to say.
“A lot of faith, a lot of hard work,” Vogelsong said. “. . . Weird things have to happen that are much greater than us for things to work out like this.”
The past two seasons with the Giants — in which he went 13-7 and 14-9 — are the only times in his major league career in which he has won more games than he lost. Now, he has three postseason starts. He has given up only a run in each. He is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
“You understand how this game can humble you,” Affeldt said.
Pittsburgh? Japan? The minors? Vogelsong’s process didn’t particularly matter to the city of San Francisco on Sunday night. What mattered: When the happy fans filtered out into the streets, they knew they had another day to play. They had Ryan Vogelsong to thank.