There was a point when it was hard to remember what the stellar Ryan Vogelsong looked like. That was back in August and mid-September, when there was an honest-to-goodness debate over whether he should be in the playoff rotation. He arrived in a puff of smoke, which was disconcerting because that meant his home planet could call him home just as quickly. And with each lousy outing, it was easier to forget what a magnificent pitcher he was, even if just a little bit.
After that one pitch, I was calm. Vogelsong walked Beltran in that at-bat, but that first-pitch strike was what we all wanted to see. The movement on the two-seamer, just nipping the outside corner, is part of what makes Vogelsong so good. His stubbornness and simmering rage is another. His curve and change aren't too shabby either. But it's the idea behind that first-pitch strike to Beltran that makes Vogelsong an epic poem stuffed into a flesh-and-bone knapsack.
It was so comforting to see. Matt Cain looks gassed in the middle innings. Madison Bumgarner looks like he's on inning 300 for the season. Tim Lincecum is in the bullpen. Barry Zito is basically Kirk Rueter with a wild hair up his nose. Was it possible for the Giants to get through the entire postseason gauntlet without any good pitching? Of course not.
I have no idea how they're in the NLCS to begin with, actually. Where are we? What's happening? Weren't there guys in milkmen outfits here just a second ago? Were they here to take me away? Is Vogelsong even real? The NLCS, huh? Well, I'll be.
But Vogelsong acted as a one-man cavalry. That was an outing you assign in the first week of your Vogelsong appreciation course at the local junior college. And by local junior college, I mean airport bar. And by course, I mean guy listening too you because the room spins if he stands up to leave. That game had everything that makes Vogelsong good -- pitches low in the zone, a change he didn't show until the third time through the lineup, and a two-seamer that ate up right-handers.
And for seven innings, the Giants had a great starting pitcher again. Remember that stretch at the end of 2010, when they went 18 straight games with three runs or fewer allowed? We used to expect that. Because we were spoiled brats. Right around Game 2 of the Reds series was the first time since, jeez, 2005 that every single member of the rotation made me uncomfortable before every start. It's been weird.
Ahhh, then. Ahhhhhhhh. A quality start. A quality start from a quality pitcher that played out as if followed a pre-written template. It's been too long.
Maybe the best way to describe Vogelsong's night tonight is with the sixth inning. He hit Allen Craig to lead off the inning, and then turned around and pointed at Ryan Theriot and Brandon Crawford. Ground ball's a comin'. And the next two balls were hit on the ground, alright, but they were hit too weakly to turn two. He couldn't keep the Cardinals from hitting the ball so weakly. He was trying!
Last week around this time, Ryan Vogelsong was pitching in an elimination game for the Giants, and he allowed four of the first five hitters to reach. He was rebooted after that inning. Someone unplugged him and plugged him back in because sometimes that works. Whatever happened, it was good. And it's giving me hope for this silly little playoff series.
Matt Cain on Wednesday, by the way.
All of that was the happy stuff. There was a dark side to the game, of course. For about two minutes, I thought Marco Scutaro's career was over.
I figured all sorts of tendons had sproinged their final sproing, as if his knee were a lute under a car tire. Maybe career-threatening was too dramatic, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he was going to miss 2013, which would have put him out until he was 38. He might have just called it quits.
The play is obviously a bunch of crap. There's something called the Hal McRae rule, and a good way to break it is to leap over the bag. I guess he could have kinda sorta stretched out to touch the base, so I'm not sure if it was technically illegal. But it was a bunch of crap.
Scutaro stayed in the game, though. Amazing.
Then, Scutaro cleared the bases with a double. Even more amazing.
The reason the runner from first scored on the play was because Matt Holliday made an error. That's transcendent.
That's something that happens to Bluto in a Popeye cartoon, not the end of a story about baseball. Really, the only way it could have been better is if he slipped in a mud puddle and ended up with a bucket on his head.
While the initial reports are that the x-rays are negative on Scutaro's hip, he went to the hospital for an MRI. If that crap slide puts more Ryan Theriot in the lineup, man, I'm thinking class-action lawsuit. Post-Theriot Stress Disorder. I can't work, I can't drive ... all I see is Theriot dropping a pop-up and looking like an owl, and it's ruining my life, Your Honor.
But, of course, Theriot had a big two-run single in the game because screw you Cardinals.
Not looking for a beanball war. But if someone could step on a Cardinals player just once -- on a pickoff throw, or something -- I think I'd be satisfied. Unless Scutaro misses a game, in which case someone needs to drug Matt Holliday and shave his eyebrows.