Giants, Vogelsong take down Dodgers in series opener, 3-1

Stephen Dunn

You will sleep well.

Admit it: The first thing you think when the Giants take the first game in a series against the Dodgers is some variation of “Oh, thank goodness. They won’t get swept.”

It’s okay. They do the same thing.

★★★

It would be very Ryan Vogelsong to make us think that he’s dead, just so he could shun the non-believers while he ascended to Narnia with the true believers. It would be very baseball to make a veteran pitcher stop pitching well after he gets to a certain age.

So this is basically Ryan Vogelsong vs. baseball.

I’ll take Vogelsong.

He looked stunning for most of the night. There was a pitch I can’t GIF just yet, a swinging strike from Hanley Ramirez. There was an extra hop to it, a darting motion right at the end. Kenley Jansen on quaaludes. It was the good Vogelsong, the befuddling master from two years ago. He lived on the corners, eating nothing but berries and strike zone, and he persevered, dammit, he persevered. Excelled, even.

When Vogelsong was in a bad way, I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t tell the difference between good and bad Vogelsong, that the differences between the two were so minute, the average slob couldn’t pick them up. That pitch … the way he bent Matt Kemp to suit his purposes in the seventh … it was vintage.

There was luck, too. Or, at least, the residue of good design. There were shifts and more shifts, and danged if the Giants aren’t all aboard the shift train this year. It was mad genius tonight. Vogelsong allowed a lot of balls in play, and for the most part, the Giants were there to funnel them to the right place.

This is the third straight solid-to-great start from Vogelsong this year. He had a similar stretch like that last year, so don't get too excited yet. Or, even better, assume that's the real Vogelsong, and he's just emerging from his dusty chrysalis now. That's more fun.

★★★

Brandon Hicks is Dan Uggla with an eye patch. I mean that in a favorable way. He hits for power, like Uggla does, and he has some issues with his hands, just like Uggla. But everything is just a ... touch off, still. That's the eye patch. There's still a depth perception problem with him compared to vintage Uggla. 

Oh, right. We're talking vintage Uggla. Don't get too freaked out. 

Earlier in the game, Hicks looked like a minor leaguer who couldn't stick in the majors because of contact issues, even though he had several skills that should interest a major league franchise. Which is what he kind of is. He looked awful against Josh Beckett in the first couple at-bats, like he was completely out of place in the majors. My left hand was typing notes for this recap; my right hand was googling Joe Panik's stats on my phone.

Then, a hanger. It looked like it was 30 rows up, but it was just over the fence. It was just as beautiful either way. 

I will now list the seasons in which the Giants got fewer than six homers from their second basemen:

1960
1961
1962
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1971
1974
1976
1977
1980
1984
1985
1994
2008
2012
2013

And, then, dingers. He's a Rob Deer who can pivot on a tough double play. Sounds great to me. 

★★★

This probably isn't necessary, but it's made. Here's a Brandon Crawford supercut GIF from tonight:

Crawford-supercut_medium

Early in the season, when Crawford had negative defensive numbers, and the eyeballs agreed with the stats, the only recourse was to remind yourself that fielding is like batting average. After a couple of 4-for-5 days, suddenly everything looks a heckuva lot better. 

This was the shortstop's equivalent of a 4-for-5 day with a triple and three runs scored. I'm glad he's on our side. 

★★★

You're going to say I'm nuts, but Pablo Sandoval’s hit in fourth was a thing of purtiness. He took an outside pitch from Josh Beckett and served it into left. That's what Sandoval does when he's right. It's not just about swingswingswing, it's about waiting for the right time to employ the swingswingswing. 

In his last at-bat of the night, he took a wild chop on a ball out of the zone, making more contact than he had a right to. Gooooood, I wanted to shout. That's the Pablo I remember. Hack at that stuff. Make them nervous.

He looks right. Pablo's comin'. 

★★★

Another night, another favorable note about Santiago Casilla. In the ninth, he was saved by a brilliant Crawford play and a shift, so there was some good fortune. But his at-bat against Yasiel Puig was something that Peter Jackson could/should stretch out into three different three-hour movies. Puig yapping about a pitch down the middle. Puig just missing a pitch down the middle. Puig having the patience to lay off pitches in the dirt. Puig not having enough patience to lay off that last pitch in the dirt. 

It was grand. Also, the Giants beat the Dodgers.

★★★

Hector Sanchez has one walk and 20 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances this year. 

He also leads the league in TIMING+, which is something I just made up. Dude has super timing. It isn't sustainable. But it sure feels good right now. (And, I'm telling you, he's still going to be good, dang it.)

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