When a starting pitcher has a strenuous-if-effective game like Ryan Vogelsong had tonight, it's the kind of start that can screw up a lot of teams. Sure, there aren't a lot of runs on the board when he leaves in the fifth, but it should be a chore to fill the last four innings with quality relievers.
Here's what the Giants can do, though:
Sixth inning - Santiago Casilla
No, you don't trust him. But there isn't a team in the world that has a sixth-inning guy they can trust. If they trusted him, he'd be a seventh-inning or eighth-inning guy somewhere. No one is bringing out Neftali Feliz in the sixth and saying, jeez, we just don't know where else he fits.
Last year, Casilla was a weapon. This year, he's just a guy, but he's fathoms better than what most teams can run out in the sixth.
Seventh inning - Jeremy Affeldt
Used to be an eighth-inning guy, for whatever that's worth. I had absolutely no confidence in him earlier this year. I was okay with his 2009, and his championship-helping performance in Utleygate. He was a good Giant, but I never really wanted to watch him pitch again.
Something flipped, though. It's rare when you can point to a day or week where you can comfortably describe everything that came before as iffy, and everything that came after as quality. Affeldt is mostly quality now. And if he started messing around, there was Ramon Ramirez warming up. I'm pretty sure I don't know baseball well enough to rank the best seventh-inning bullpen tandems, but Affeldt/Ramirez has to be on the short list.
Eighth inning - Sergio Romo/Javier Lopez
Sergio Romo might be my favorite baseball player on the planet. Sure, I'm wearing this shirt right now, and Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Pablo Sandoval have all sorts of things going for them, but I think that Romo amuses/pleases/entertains me more than anyone on the Giants. He's like a Steve Reed with the ability to get lefties out, which is something I would have thrown a virgin into a volcano for ten years ago.
And while it's hard to agree with Bochy's faith in Lopez's ability to get right-handed hitters out, it's so, so, so much fun to watch Lopez do his thing against the top lefties in the league. He made Prince Fielder look like Mike Fontenot tonight, assuming Fontenot was afflicted with glaucoma. So fun.
Ninth inning - Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson threw five pitches in the ninth inning, and all of them were strikes. That's like Michael Bay making a tender, subtle movie about West Virginia coal miners. I ... I ... I'm not sure if I'm ready to write about it yet. Let me process it first.
Four innings, five pitchers. The Giants are 1395-11 in close games this year, and everyone's yabbering about luckluckluck. Maybe. But it helps to have a backlog of good bullpen arms. And for as much grief as Bochy was getting for Romo/Lopez weirdness in the early part of the year, I still trust him to run a bullpen. If you just snorted, it's because you weren't paying attention to Felipe Alou.
As a final thought, coming from someone who was disgusted that Aubrey Huff was in the lineup today, here's to Aubrey Huff. Patience is a virtue. He looked pretty swell against Wolf, whose ERA against the Giants increased to 0.01 tonight.
I liked that game.