OAKLAND — On the back of his Players Weekend jersey, San Francisco Giants catcher Stephen Vogt’s chosen nickname is “I Believe,” after the chant fans began during his four and a half seasons in Oakland. Before his first plate appearance at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, he was given a warm ovation.
When Vogt stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the eighth, a lone, weary A’s fan — who had just seen the Giants score five runs in the inning off of four A’s relievers — yelled, “I believe that you will strike out!” Vogt hit a three-run home run, capping off an eight-run inning, San Francisco’s biggest of the season. He wasn’t booed rounding the bases.
With the 10-5 comeback win, the Giants breathed some life back into their fading playoff chances with a well-rounded effort, moving five games back of the second National League wild card. They did so at the expense of the A’s, who had just won six of seven against the best two teams in the American League. Oakland is now a half game back of Tampa Bay for the second AL spot.
“That was fun,” Vogt said. “A lot of fun.”
On Friday night, Vogt went home and unpacked a pair of gray Nike cleats he was set to wear with his monochrome black Players Weekend uniform. He gave a box of markers to daughter Payton (8), and his sons Bennett (2) and Clark (4), and told them to go to town on decorating. Payton got the right, the boys got the left. Both boys were born while Vogt was playing for the A’s, from 2013 to July of 2017, when he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. He hadn’t returned to play at the Coliseum since.
After a potentially career-ending shoulder surgery, he missed a year and signed a minor league deal with San Francisco this offseason. He was not with the Giants when they played the annual preseason Bay Bridge Series back in March, but now, he has an .867 OPS in 75 games.
“He’s an easy guy to like and to pull for,” said starter Madison Bumgarner. “He’s special to this organization, I’m sure.”
Before Saturday’s game, Vogt went around and tried to say hello to as many stadium employees and fans as he could. He even found Right Field Will. Before his first at-bat as designated hitter, many of the 53,367 stood and expressed their appreciation for his two All-Star seasons and a pair of playoff appearances. He flew out to left.
“I was very moved,” Vogt said. “It really meant a lot to me. It’s a special place for me and for my family so to come back and have the fans kind of say, ‘Thank you,’ or however you want to call it, it was it was a very neat moment for me.”
A’s starter Chris Bassitt held Vogt and the Giants in check, allowing just four hits and two runs — one on a Brandon Crawford solo homer in the fifth — before exiting after 5 2/3.
The A’s ground down Bumgarner, taking an early lead on a second-inning Mark Canha solo homer (his 20th), adding a run on a Matt Chapman double in the third. After Bumgarner exited with 94 pitches after five, Oakland added two more runs in the seventh. It looked as though the Giants — averaging 4.36 runs per game, 25th in baseball — were ticketed for their fifth straight loss.
After A’s left-hander Jake Diekman recorded the first out of the eighth by getting Vogt to fly out to center, seven straight Giants reached base. Yusmeiro Petit allowed three straight singles, capped by an RBI knock by Evan Longoria. Rookie lefty AJ Puk came on and wild pitched home the tying run with an errant slider to Austin Slater, who pinch hit for Brandon Belt, working a walk.
Lou Trivino — who had given up just two earned runs in his previous five outings (6 1/3 innings) — surrendered an 0-1, two-run double just inside the right field line by Kevin Pillar to put the Giants ahead, 6-4.
Two singles later, Pillar came around, and Ryan Buchter came on to try and stanch the bleeding. He struck out Mike Yastrzemski, but couldn’t get Vogt, who drove a 3-1 fastball into the fans in the left bleachers, the same fans who used to cheer him so lustily.
“They’re family,” Vogt said. “We spent five years here and just to be able to hug them and have them ask how the kids are, you know, catch up with them, with how their families are doing, things like that, it was a really special day.”
“They love him, as they should; we do,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He’s such a great teammate, plays the game right. He’s done some really good things here, and he’s done some great things for us, too.”