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Previewing the NLDS Game 4 matchup

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Ryan Vogelsong vs. Gio Gonzalez for the right to stay off an airplane tomorrow.

Ezra Shaw

1. Ryan Vogelsong

You are looking for a way to feel confident about Tuesday night's Game 4. Let me do my best. How about a factlet? An interesting fact always helps me feel better. Here goes: In the 14 postseason games played across both leagues, only one of them was started by a pitcher with a higher adjusted ERA than Ryan Vogelsong. That pitcher lasted two-thirds of an inning before ruining his team's season.

There. Now you feel better.

Wait ...

It's true, it's true. The only competition for Vogelsong's ERA (4.00) and ERA+ (87) were Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson. Both of their teams lost their starts. Both of those players are out of the postseason, too. It's possible -- likely, even? -- that Vogelsong is the worst starting pitcher left in the postseason.

It's hard to get upset at this, considering it could have been Yusmeiro Petit's start before the 18-inning DeMille movie on Saturday. Most teams don't have to dip into the fifth-starter well if they're healthy; most teams don't play 18-inning baseball games, either. The Giants are starting their fifth-best starter in the most important game of the season.

Good. Fine. Whatever. I'll tell you why this doesn't bother me as much as it should

First, the Giants aren't the best team in baseball. They probably aren't the second-best team in baseball. They might not be as good as any of the four teams that were already bounced from the postseason. To get where the Giants are -- holding an advantage at the end of the Division Series -- took talent (which the Giants have a lot of, mind you) and random baseball-related curiosities. They will need more baseball-related curiosities to win the World Series.

Worrying about the roster construction that done brought 'em to the dance doesn't make sense right now. They were always going to need a little providence, if not divine intervention, from the baseball gods. Vogelsong fits that description. I say enjoy it — it's a hell of a toboggan ride!

Second, this is Ryan Vogelsong, grizzled veteran and magic veteran. We've complained about him starting an important game before, you know.

You're telling me that you're losing faith and feeling hopeless … the day of a Ryan Vogelsong start? Do you realize how ridiculous that is? How weak that makes you seem? Have you already forgotten the circles of baseball hell that Vogelsong traversed to be here today?

So if the Giants were going to need some inexplicable baseball-related curiosites to advance anyway, why not the most inexplicable baseball-related curiosity? We're four seasons into this, so the story doesn't have the same effect, but this is still the pitcher who shouldn't be here in the first place, who should have gone home when the Phillies and Angels both decided they didn't want him on their Triple-A team.

I'm in. Grind, Vogie, grind. Get the Giants to the sixth, preferably with a lead. If there's no grinding left in those old bones, then it's back on an airplane for everyone. No one wants that.

2. Gio Gonzalez

His three starts against the Giants since he joined the Nationals:

August 13, 2012 at AT&T Park. 6⅔ innings, two runs, two walks, four strikeouts. Nationals won, 14-2.

May 22, 2013 at AT&T Park. 7½ innings, one run, two walks, five strikeouts. Nationals won, 2-1.

August 13, 2013 at Nationals Park. Four innings (rain delay), no runs, two walks, two strikeouts. Nationals won, 4-2.

There are differences in the Giants' lineup, of course. Brett Pill is gone, and so are Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan. Last year, something called "Jeff Francoeur" made it into one of the games. Weird. The larger point still stands: It's been years since Gonzalez has stumbled against the Giants.

It's been a while since Gonzalez has stumbled against anyone, really. In his 18 starts since returning from the DL (shoulder), Gonzalez has a 3.08 ERA, with 109 strikeouts and 36 walks in 108 innings. The Nationals are 11-7 in his starts since then, including the last game of the season against the Mets, which featured Gonzalez's best start of the season.


Fastball, curve, change. If he can command them all, he's unhittable. The Giants are countering with their fifth starter.

The good news is that baseball is already drunk. The other good news is that the best starting pitcher in any of the three games hasn't won yet. Stephen Strasburg is better than Jake Peavy, Jordan Zimmermann is better than Tim Hudson, and I'll take Madison Bumgarner over Doug Fister, though it's close. The expected result hasn't happened yet.

The Giants weren't going to troll the world by being better than everyone else. They were going to do it by surprising the hell out of everyone else. You might be scared of a Vogelsong/Gonzalez matchup. But I'm not. This is exactly what the Giants need to move on.

(Just kidding, I'm terrified. Just wait until the lineups come out, too.)

(Baseball!)