So you’d think since we were advocating for Ryan Vogelsong to be the opening day starter that we’d be upset with Bruce Bochy’s announced rotation.
Bochy said the rotation will go like this:
- RHP Matt Cain
- LHP Madison Bumgarner
- RHP Tim Lincecum
- LHP Barry Zito
- RHP Ryan Vogelsong
But we don’t have any problem with this rotation, and here are six good reasons why we like this rotation.
NO. 1: Barry Zito earned the right to open the home opener when the Giants will hoist their 2012 World Series flag. It was Zito who saved the season in Game 5 of the NLCS with his gem in the fourth of the six elimination games the Giants faced last fall.
NO. 2: It sets up the right-left-right-left-right format in the rotation.
NO. 3: Putting Lincecum at the No. 3 slot instead of Vogelsong keeps Timmy’s fragile psyche in place. Vogey can handle being the No. 5 better than Lincecum, who has been the No. 1 guy the past four seasons.
NO. 4: The Giants have won the past 14 games started by Zito, and the Giants want to win their home opener.
NO. 5: Last weekend when Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum started the season opening series in Arizona — not necessarily in that order — and the Giants lost all three games, it was Zito who pitched a shutout in his season debut in Colorado. Pitching in San Francisco will be much easier.
NO. 6: It’s sets up the rotation against the Cardinals exactly as it aligned in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the NLCS: Zito, Vogelsong, Cain.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday that he has a pretty good idea of who is opening day starter will be. He just needs to talk to pitcher Dave Righetti and the pitcher first before announcing his decision.
Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area said “It has to be Matt Cain.” To watch Baggs talk about it, click here.
That shouldn’t come as a shock to many Giants fans, and I doubt many would argue with that choice. Heck, even Tim Lincecum was all on board for Cain getting that nod on April 1 against the Dodgers.
Lincecum has been the Giants’ opening day starter the past four years. Before that, it was Barry Zito (2007-08), Jason Schmidt (2005-06), Kirk Rueter (2003-04) and Livan Hernandez (2000-02).
Cain has earned the nod. He’s been with the Giants since 2005. He threw a perfect game last season. He started the All-Star Game. He started the first game of the postseason last season. And he started all three clinching games last postseason.
All good reasons for going with Cainer. But I’m going to offer another choice: Ryan Vogelsong.
OK, for the entire regular season in 2012, Cain was better than Vogelsong.
- Cain: 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 219.1 IP, 193 K, 1.040 WHIP
- Vogelsong: 14-9, 3.37 ERA, 189.2 IP, 158 K, 1.228 WHIP
But we’ll offer you several reasons for Vogey.
BEFORE THE FUNK: In seven starts from Aug. 13 to Sept. 16, Vogelsong went 2-4 with a 10.30 ERA. Yikes! But before the funk, Vogelsong was the Giants’ best pitcher. He was 10-5 with a league-best 2.27 ERA. At that same time, Cain was 10-5 with 3.01 ERA. Now while we shouldn’t punish Cain for finishing the season strong, we also shouldn’t downgrade Vogelsong for an isolated slump. After Vogelsong emerged from his funk, he finished the regular season 2-0 with 1.06 ERA in his final three starts.
POSTSEASON: Yes, Cain started the first postseason game for the Giants in 2012 and he was on the mound on all three series clinchers. But, as a whole, Cain finished the postseason 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA in five postseason starts. Not bad, but no comparison to Vogelsong. Vogey went 3-0 with 1.09 ERA in four postseason starts. Cain never would have had the chance to start three clinchers if Vogelsong hadn’t kept the Giants in the game in Game 3 vs. the Reds when the Giants were being held hitless.
LAST TWO YEARS: Compare Cain and Vogelsong over 2011 and 2012, the numbers are very comparable.
- Vogelsong: 27-16 3.05 ERA
- Cain: 28-16 2.84 ERA
If you take out one disastrous start for Vogelsong — the Aug. 13 start last season vs. the Nationals when Vogelsong got tagged for eight runs in 2.2 innings — and the numbers are almost identical. Vogelsong’s adjusted numbers would be 27-15 with a 2.87 ERA.
SENTIMENT: Yes, Cain has never received an opening day nod despite eight great seasons with the Giants. But Vogelsong hasn’t even been on the active 25-man roster on opening day with the Giants, and that goes back to the 2000-01 seasons. In 2011, despite a great spring, he didn’t break into the rotation to open the season. He went to Fresno, but then got the call two weeks later when Barry Zito went on the DL. Last season, he got a late start in the spring because of back problems. That put him on the DL to open the season.
MORE SENTIMENT: Vogelsong has a great story. Traded by the Giants in 2001 in the Jason Schmidt deal, Tommy John surgery in 2001 that kept him out of the majors until 2003, out of major league baseball by 2006, pitched in Japan three seasons, signed and released by both the Phillies and Angels in 2010, signed by Giants in 2011, called up from Fresno in April 2011, earned All-Star bid in 2011 (although he never got in the game), hosed out of All-Star bid in 2012.
FUTURE IS NOW: Cain is 28. He’s under contract with the Giants through 2018. There will be plenty of chances for Cain to get the opening day nod. Vogelsong is 36. How many more opening days does he have?
GAME READY: Vogelsong will be pitching the World Baseball Classic for the USA. That means he will have pitched in meaningful games before the season starts.
VOGELSONG, DODGER SLAYER: In 2012, Cain was 1-0 with 2.73 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers. Not bad, but it can’t compare to Vogelsong, who was 2-1 with a 0.71 ERA in 25.1 innings against the boys in blue. Not only that, but all four starts Vogelsong made against the Dodgers came against Clayton Kershaw, the presumed Dodgers opening day starter. The point is to win the game, right? So why not go with Vogelsong, given the matchup.
Cain may be the “no-brainer” pick for opening day. But sometimes the right answer isn’t the obvious one.
So this might be the chance for Bochy to think outside the box.
So what do you say, Boch? Doesn’t chicken enchiladas sound great on opening day?
Pablo Sandoval was the MVP of the 2012 World Series. And that was an easy call.
The Panda hit .500 (8 for 16) with three home runs, four RBI, a double and only two strikeouts. And, of course, he had the three-homer game.
But there were a lot of MVPs in the World Series for the Giants. Here are others:
RHP Tim Lincecum 4.2 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, one walk, eight strikeouts
RHP Sergio Romo 3 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, five strikeouts, three saves
LHP Madison Bumgarner 7 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts, 1 win.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, 5.2 IP, 5 hits, 0 run, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 win
OF Gregor Blanco, 4-15 (.267), 3B, RBI, three great catches, great relay throw to Marco Scutaro to get Prince Fielder at the plate
C Buster Posey, 4-15 (.267), HR, 3 RBI, caught outstanding series, two shutouts.
LHP Barry Zito, 5.2 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 1 win, 1-2, RBI
LHP Jeremy Affeldt, 2 IP, 0 hit, 0 run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
SS Brandon Crawford, 3-12 (.250), RBI, stolen base, outstanding defensive shortstop
In 2010, the Giants captured the World Championship without facing an elimination game.
On Sunday, the Giants’ faced their fifth of the 2012 postseason. Thanks to Ryan Vogelsong, they’ll face their sixth on Monday.
For the second time in this series, Vogelsong limited the Cardinals to a single run over seven outstanding innings of work. Following up the effort of Barry Zito in Game 5, Vogey even delivered an RBI to his cause as the Giants won 6-1 in Game 6 Sunday, forcing a deciding Game 7 on Monday.
Vogelsong set the tone early, striking out six of the first seven batters he faced. Then the offense did its part by giving him a 5-0 lead before Vogelsong would face the eighth Cardinal.
“I just tried to do really the same thing (Zito) did, come out and set the tone early for us,” Vogelsong said, referring to Zito’s performance in Game 5.
And he did, with the bat as well.
The Giants struck first with a run in the bottom of the first. After a walk to Marco Scutaro and a double by Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey’s infield grounder scored Scutaro with the first run.
In the second, with Brandon Belt on third and Brandon Crawford on first and one out, Vogelsong squared to bunt with Crawford taking off for second. Then Vogelsong pulled the bat back and hit a slow grounder to short.
Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who had broken to cover second, changed direction to field the ball and dropped it, as Belt scored and the other two runners were safe.
“You try and put as much pressure on them as possible,” Belt said. “You put runners on base and push, and stuff like this happens. We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing all season: Find some way to get on base, some way to get into scoring position and then some way to get home.”
After Angel Pagan struck out, Scutaro delivered another clutch hit, doubling to left to score Crawford from second and Vogelsong from first.
When asked how he felt after that, Vogelsong said: “Well, I was looking for the oxygen first.”
After Sandoval added an RBI single to make it 5-0 in the second, it was the Cardinals who looked like they were out of gas. Vogelsong kept going on strong, not allowing a hit to the Cardinals until the fifth inning.
The final numbers for Vogelsong: 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts.
For the postseason, Vogelsong has given up three runs on 11 hits in 19 innings, for a 1.42 ERA.
And now it’s down to one game, as the Giants comeback magic continues.
They were down 0-2 to the Reds, needing to win three on the road to survive, and they di.
They were down 3-1 to the Cardinals, needing three wins to surviving, and they have achieved two of them.
When asked to explain the team’s resiliency, Giants GM Brian Sabean said: “I honestly don’t know. In some ways it’s just a human group dynamic. There’s an old saying in sports, it’s not how good you are, it’s how well you play. I don’t know if they love to win as much as they hate to lose.”
Well, the Giants aren’t alone in that description.
With Sunday’s win, the Giants became the eighth team to win five consecutive elimination games in postseason history. Three other teams have also won five: the Red Sox in 2007-08, the Dodgers in 1981, and the Athletics in 1972-73.
If you want good karma, all of those teams won World Series titles, except the 2008 Red Sox.
But to join those world champions, the Giants will have to win a sixth. And that would put them in a class with four other teams to win six in a row: the Tigers in a streak that extended from 1945 to 1972, the Twins in a streak that extended from 1987 to 2002, the 1985 Royals … and these Cardinals, who have six in a row dating back to last season.
Game 1: Cardinals 6, Giants 4
Game 2: Giants 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Giants (Cain) at Cardinals (Lohse), 1:07 p.m. Wednesday
Game 4: Giants (Lincecum or Zito) at Cardinals (Wainwright), 5:07 p.m. Thursday
Game 5: Giants (Lincecum or Zito) at Cardinals (Lynn), 5:07 p.m. Friday
x-Game 6: Cardinals at Giants, 1:07 p.m. Sunday
x-Game 7: Cardinals at Giants, 5:07 p.m. Monday
Ryan Vogelsong stopped the streak. Several streaks in fact.
And in doing so he kept another streak going.
The first streak that ended was the Giants’ three-game losing streak at home in the postseason, and that evened the NLCS at one game each.
He helped end Chris Carpenter’s streak of winning his last five postseason decisions.
And by pitching seven solid innings, he became the first Giants starter to post a quality start in the postseason.
Of course, Vogelsong could have ended that last streak in his last start had the Giants managed any early hitting in Game 3 of the NLDS. Vogelsong gave up one run in five innings against the Reds, when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter when the Giants were being no-hit by Homer Bailey.
And that was the positive streak he extended Monday. Monday’s start was the fifth consecutive start that Vogelsong has allowed one run or fewer. Take a look:
- Sept. 21 vs. Padres: 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 hits
- Sept. 28 at Padres: 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 hits
- Oct. 3 at Dodgers: 5 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 hits
- Oct. 9 at Reds: 5 IP, 1 ER, 3 hits
- Oct. 15 vs. Cardinals: 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 hits
And this after a seven-start stretch in August and September in which he posted on ERA over 10.00.
Angel Pagan gave the Giants the early lead with his second lead-off home run of the postseason.
After the Cardinals tied the game 1-1, the Giants took control with their second four-run fourth inning in two days.
Brandon Belt, who struggled in the NLDS, came up with a big double in the fourth, and moved to third on Gregor Blanco’s single. When Chris Carpenter made an error on Brandon Crawford’s chopper, Belt scored to make it 2-1.
After a walk to Pagan, Marco Scutaro, who was hurt by a late slide by Matt Holliday in the first, delivered a two-run single and a third run scored when Holliday booted the ball in the outfield.
The Giants added to more runs in the eighth when Ryan Theriot, who replaced the injured Scutaro in the sixth, delivered a bases-loaded single.
Scutaro had X-rays after the game, which came back clean. Then he went to the hospital for an MRI.
But the Giants got the win they needed. They need to win at least one in St. Louis to bring the series back to San Francisco. And who would pitch in that potential Game 6 in SF?
I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced Sunday who will start Game 3 in Cincinnati: Ryan Vogelsong.
After Vogelsong pitched last week in Los Angeles — his third consecutive solid start after a very rough patch in August and early September — I felt Vogelsong was the best option for Game 3.
He has allowed one earned run in 17 innings over his last three starts. He’s back to the Vogelsong of old.
Tim Lincecum has just been to inconsistent this season, especially of late.
In his final two starts of the regular seasons, Lincecum got tagged for 11 earned runs in 10 innings.
And Barry Zito is, well, Barry Zito.
I felt best about Vogelsong in Game 3, regardless of the situation. I’m sure most Giants fans feel the same way.
I just wasn’t sure if Bruce Bochy would feel the same.
Bochy’s M.O. over the years have been to go with players who have success in the past — not necessarily in the present.
We saw it all last year when he sided with a struggling Aubrey Huff, instead of Brandon Belt. And there have been numerous others examples.
With Bochy, sometimes it seems more about loyalty than results.
I thought Bochy would go with Lincecum in Game 3, and Zito in Game 4, with Vogelsong coming out of the pen.
There is some logic to that strategy as Vogelsong is probably the best suited of the three to work out of the pen.
Bochy did not announce who would pitch Game 4, “but we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do,” he said.
Translation: Barry Zito pitches Game 4. But Bochy is leaving that option open, depending on what happens in Games 2 and 3.
The Giants have won the last 11 games in which Barry Zito has started, dating back to Aug. 7 in St. Louis. Zito was 5-0 in his last five starts, allowing eight earned runs in 30.2 innings (a 2.35 ERA). And the Reds have several key left-handed bats in their lineup.
Bochy said he talked to Lincecum and he’s ready to do anything he can to help the team, which Bochy said includes coming out of the pen.
Again, another sign that Zito is the Game 4 option.
But Lincecum out of the pen? I’m not so sure about that.
Lincecum posted a 7.64 ERA this season in the first inning of games. That doesn’t speak to a lot of confidence of him coming out of the pen. He’s struggled to find his rhythm early.
So is Lincecum only an option to pitch as an innings eater in the event the Giants fall behind big early in the game?
If so, it seems like a waste of a roster spot. But he is a two-time Cy Young winner. Although those trophies don’t get you any outs this October.
So it’s Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3, Barry Zito probably in Game 4, Matt Cain in Game 5. And Tim Lincecum in the pen.
I bet you Chris Lincecum, Timmy’s daddy, is going nuts right about now.
The next time the Giants are struggling to score runs — which could easily come Thursday — and fans start to complain, they can remember August 8 in St. Louis.
The next time Giants fans complain that the Giants can just win games easily, they can remember August 8.
The next time fans complain the Giants don’t give Ryan Vogelsong enough run support, they can remember August 8.
And hopefully, some time in October when the Giants in the postseason, they can look back on August 8 as a turning point.
The Giants got a win they needed to get Wednesday. Oddly enough, on a night when they only needed one run, they got 15.
Too bad there’s not run equity or aggregate scores don’t count for anything.
The Giants needed to come into St. Louis and earn a split. They’ve assured themselves of at least doing that.
It will enable the Giants to return home on Friday with the lead in the NL West, either one game over the Dodgers or two.
As Mike Krukow said Wednesday, if the Giants lose Thursday, it will have been a good road trip. If they win, it will be a great one.
On the heels of an ugly 3-7 homestead, the Giants have turned the tables with a road trip that will be at worst a 5-2 one, at best 6-1.
And there were plenty of highlights to go around:
Marco Scutaro was the star of the box score, with his seven RBI. But six of those RBI, including his grand slam, came in the eighth and ninth innings, when the game was well in hand. The biggest RBI was his first, when he singled home Angel Pagan in the first inning. It marked the fifth time on this road trip that the Giants have scored in the first inning. They won all of those games.
Hunter Pence went 2 for 5 with a pair of RBI singles.
Buster Posey kept it up, going 1 for 2 with three walks. If teams are going to continue to pitch around Posey, Pence’s contributions will become even bigger.
Angel Pagan got things going atop the lineup, going 1 for 3 with two walks.
Brandon Belt continued his solid hitting, going 2 for 5. Melky Cabrera and Brandon Crawford also had two hits each.
But the star of the game was Ryan Vogelsong. He earned his 10th win of the season by limiting the Cardinals to no runs on three hits and three walks in seven innings. He left after 97 pitches and could have thrown more. But with the Giants up 10-0 in the top of the eighth, what was the point.
He lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.27. It was the kind of outing that makes you glad the Giants signed Vogelsong to a two-year deal prior to this season. It makes you feel even better that they added a team option for 2014.
Madison Bumgarner takes the mound Thursday afternoon against Adam Wainwright. If the Giants win, they’ll be sitting pretty with a two-game lead heading into the weekend series against the Rockies.
But even a one-game lead feels pretty good right now.