He was the question mark, the pitcher who had everyone wondering or even doubting. Ryan Vogelsong hadn’t won a game this year, hadn’t looked very good. But on a chilly night at AT&T Park, it all changed.
Vogelsong, who gave up six runs a week ago to the Los Angeles Dodgers, didn’t give up a single run to the San Diego Padres in this one.
“What a terrific job,” an elated Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He bounced back from the last game. It was the vintage Vogey we’ve seen so many times here. Good for him.”
And very good for the Giants, a team out of doldrums and into race — if there is a race the first week in May.
“I worked on some things,” said Vogelsong, who said he was helped by pitching coach Dave Righetti. “It was a tough week, and I didn’t get through it alone.”
Nor with the beard he grew in the offseason. He shaved before this momentous game.
Tim Lincecum didn’t allow a run Sunday. Madison Bumgarner didn’t allow a run Monday. And Vogelsong, surprising everyone if not himself, didn’t allow a run Tuesday, the Giants beating San Diego 6-0.
“Our starters set the tone on this homestand,” Bochy said. “Good, quality starts to get us deep in the game.”
And pitching is what sets the tone for the Giants.
“I think it gives the team a sense of confidence when that happens and you get some timely hits,” said Bochy said.
No less importantly, it’s also given the Giants a five-game win streak. The joy is back by the Bay. There were empty seats at AT&T, although, yes, another announced sellout — did all those people stay home to watch the Warriors on TV?
They should have been in the park watching the Giants, who not long ago were 4-10 and now jumped to 14-13.
“It’s not where we want to be,” Bochy said, “but considering where we were, it’s a step in the right direction.”
This was going to be an essay on Little Ball, how they could turn off the Splash Hits sign on the right-field bricks at AT&T. It’s unneeded. There hasn’t been a Giants homer into McCovey Cove since September, although Tuesday, Joe Panik came close.
But homers, even when Barry Bonds was drilling them, never have been what made the Giants winners. It’s less the guys who stand in the batter’s box — for heaven’s sake, in the National League, only the Philadelphia Phillies have fewer runs than San Francisco — and more the guys who stand on the mound.
“I’ll take my chances when guys are throwing shutouts,” Bochy said in jest, but hardly jesting. Who wouldn’t?
Nobody has scored a run against the Giants since the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning Saturday, and San Francisco won that one 5-4. “I like home runs,” said Bochy, when queried about the offense, or lack of same. “That was fun Sunday seeing [Nori] Aoki and Panik hitting back-to-back home runs to start the game. Power’s a beautiful thing, but if you don’t have it, then you’d better execute. You’d better do the little things, and we’ve been pretty good at that over the years.”
They’ve been very good at the big thing, keeping the other team from scoring very much. Or at all.
On Tuesday, shortstop Brandon Crawford, moved up to the fifth spot in the order — Angel Pagan was missing because his thumb had been spiked Monday — had three hits and scored two runs.
When asked why the vaunted Giants pitching was so ineffective early on and so effective lately, four runs total the last four games, Bochy, an old catcher shrugged.
“Some things are hard to explain,” he said. “But it’s nice to see they’re doing what they’ve been doing. Vogey pitched a great game against a Padres team that has been hitting the ball well.”
Until Bumgarner and Vogelsong. Then they hit a wall.