The most significant story line for the Giants heading into Game 2 of the National League Championship Series was, without question, their heralded starting rotation’s failure to post a “quality start” to that point in the postseason.
It was, however, a bit like the very notion of a “quality start.” As in somewhat misleading, somewhat deceptive.
Which brings us to Ryan Vogelsong, whose NL Division Series outing illustrated one side of the inherent flaw in the “quality start” label, and whose outing Monday stopped the aforementioned story line — and the steamrolling St. Louis Cardinals — cold.
A “quality start,” of course, is said to be an outing of at least six innings in which no more than three earned runs are allowed. And the easiest way to poke holes in the idea is to note that if a pitcher went six and three all season, he’d finish with a 4.50 ERA.
Anyone think a 4.50 ERA is “quality”? Doubt it. Try “average.” At best. But let’s go the other way to poke holes in it, by way of Vogelsong’s NLDS performance at Cincinnati.
With his team on the brink of elimination in his career playoff debut, Vogelsong, a 35-year-old journeyman-turned-All-Star, held the Reds to one run on three hits and three walks over five innings of a season-saving, 10-inning, 2-1 victory that set the tone for San Francisco’s historic comeback.
That’s not “quality”? Please. It was ballsy. It was clutch. It was monumental.
In context, it was downright heroic — right up there with Buster Posey’s one-man show in Game 5 of that series.
Even more heroic, though, was what Vogelsong pulled off in the first home playoff start of his career.
With his team again flirting with fire, having fallen to 0-3 at AT&T Park for the postseason on Sunday by extending its streak of innings to 27 without so much as holding a lead on the shores of McCovey Cove in October, Vogelsong put on the kind of show that shapes legacies.
Barely a month removed from the low point of his Giants career, a miserable late-season stretch that had some folks wondering if he were pitching his way off the postseason roster entirely, Vogelsong didn’t just put up a “quality start.”
He pulled out his paintbrush and crafted an absolute masterpiece.
By now, you might know that Vogelsong is a bit of a red-ass. Earlier this year, he considered charging the mound when Cincy’s Bronson Arroyo had the temerity to throw up and in at him after Vogelsong had squared to drop down a sacrifice bunt.
Nevermind that every pitcher is taught to buzz the tower when his counterpart is trying to lay down a bunt. And nevermind that Vogelsong and Arroyo are former teammates — and friends.
Vogey don’t play that.
Not a fan of game-day banter, either. For instance, when beloved broadcaster Duane Kuiper, well aware of his preference to be left alone, offered Vogelsong a playful hello nonetheless before Monday’s game, Vogelsong gave him the finger.
Shortly thereafter, wisely resisting the urge to put a fastball in somebody’s earhole after St. Louis “linebacker” Matt Holliday’s bush-league slide threatened to separate Marco Scutaro’s leg from the rest of his body, Vogelsong instead gave the white-hot Cardinals lineup the finger.
It was a seven-inning study in controlled rage.
Four hits, two walks, one run.
Quality. Yeah. Sure. But good God. So much more.
Mychael Urban, host of “Inside The Bigs” (9 a.m. to noon Saturdays) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.