The night started with a 93-mph fastball on the outside corner for a called strike.
That was a secret code, a message just for you. When I'm on radio in Boston, my friend gives me a word, like "panther", and I have to mention it to let him know that I know he knows I know he's listening. Vogelsong was winking at you in the same way. Here's 93 on the outside. Wink. It calmed me the heck down. It should have done the same for you. Oooooh. Velocity and command. Hello, old new old Vogelsong.
The velocity didn't last the whole game, but the effervescent voglesonginity of the evening did. This wasn't grind grind grind Vogelsong. This was the faux Maddux, the guy who made the All-Star Game one year and was shafted for the All-Star Game in the next. He was as good as the Giants needed him to be, for as long as they needed him to be. Considering that it possibly took an 18-inning game to get him in the rotation in the first place, that's above and beyond the call of fifth-starter duty.
I'm not ashamed to admit my disturbing lack of faith in him -- I wanted him over Hudson only because I figured Hudson's hip was on fire -- but if you're going to troll the world, troll it with style. Clayton Kershaw couldn't win today. David Price and Max Scherzer couldn't win this week. The Nationals couldn't get a win for three of their four aces. When the dust settles, it's just Vogelsong with a sourpuss staring straight into your soul. None of this makes sense.
None of this makes sense.
Remember the team that was swept in San Diego? The team that went from June through most of August without winning series against an over-.500 team? The team that frittered away a 59-game lead in the NL West in 48 hours, the team without Matt Cain, Angel Pagan, and Michael Morse, the team that put one of the highest-paid starting pitchers in baseball in the bullpen because that's the only thing they could think to do with him?
None of this makes sense.
So as long as everything's busy not making sense, let us allow the player who makes the least amount of sense -- Ryan Vogelsong, forever and always -- usher us into this particular tea party. It's probably your unbirthday, you know.
The Nationals allowed just one earned run, you know.
One of these years, there will be a Giants/Dodgers NLCS. That year will be 2192, and I will be dead. My genetic code and memory imprints will have been uploaded into the mainframe, but the technowar of 2120 will destroy it all. When the Giants/Dodgers NLCS happens and your memory imprints allow you to experience its glory as if you were still alive, remember that I'm dead and happy.
I did not want a Giants/Dodgers NLCS.
I will never want a Giants/Dodgers NLCS.
The Cardinals bore the rest of the world and I hate them, but I do respect their position as co-trolls of baseball. I respect nothing about the Dodgers. Okay, maybe Kershaw. And I still have a soft spot for Uribe. I like that Kenley Jansen throws a nanocutter of death that no one else can throw. Other than that, though. I couldn't imagine making it as far as the NLCS and watching them take the spoils.
Instead, well, say, Dodger fans. Are you doing anything next week? Because do I have the postseason matchup for you ...
If there's an iconic moment from this game -- and thank goodness it wasn't the Bryce Harper moonshot that the NSA wants us to believe was fair -- It was the Hunter Pence catch. Oh, Hunter Pence.
I know some of y'all were annoyed with Matt Vasgersian, but that was a heckuva call. Also, a good catch. Perhaps a great catch. If he doesn't get that, it's a triple with one out. Adam LaRoche flied out to end the inning, and maybe that's not the exact sequence that happens if Werth is on third, but I wouldn't want to risk it. That was the moment you'll remember thinking this stupid team had a chance.
Yes, that's the one. That's the heart and soul of the team giving up his spine for your entertainment. You'll remember that.
You'll remember that. Buy some shoes.
Hunter Strickland is not magic. This is good to know for the coming weeks. The first time we saw him, he was throwing 98 mph wherever he wanted. Right now, he's a little raw, a little unrefined. When he's facing one of the better fastball hitters in the world, he can be bested. He's still good, still a pitcher to take along with the wacky postseason journey. Just temper the expectations.
After Bryce Harper hit his geometric dinger, he stared at Strickland the entire way around the bases. He yelled at -- fans? Strickland? -- people from the dugout. He was hyper Harper. It was obnoxious. I've used my national pulpit to spread the word of Harper before, and I probably will again, but that was obnoxious.
I wasn't even mad, bro. The score was tied. The Giants had last licks. I waited for the walkoff that never came.
Now the egg's on my face. Oh, how embarrassed am I that the winning run scored on a complete meltdown from a random reliever instead of a walkoff? I was worried for a moment that the iconic moment from the series was going to be Posey getting thrown out at the plate on a play that would have meant a run under the first Posey Rule incarnation instead of the second Posey Rule incarnation. Which was ironic because of Posey.
Instead, the Giants stole the game fair and square. They waited for the other team to out-jackass them. Good work. Good strategy.
After that nonsensical seventh inning, after the Giants got a run but felt like they grounded into a double play at the worst possible moment, Sergio Romo came into the game.
First batter: Denard Span, lefty. Romo didn't throw him anything over the plate, and Span popped out harmlessly.
Second batter: Anthony Rendon. I can't express how much I loved this sequence.
That last slider wasn't exactly buried out of the strike zone, but look at those first two pitches. Do something with that, Rendon.
Third batter, Jayson Werth, who freaked me out more than any other Nationals hitter, save Harper, throughout the series. Don't look at the average. Look at the at-bats. He consistently had deep, tough plate appearances. Romo threw an insane/effective first-pitch fastball to steal a strike and a second-pitch slider to get the harmless fly ball.
Romo isn't the rock star he once was around here. He's still a latent rock star, though. He's sneaking up on us. The eighth inning is his, just his, and he's doing amazing things with it lately. That was one of the best eighth innings he's ever pitched.
Ian Desmond didn't swing, and that was a stupid call. Feels wrong not to mention that at least once.
The Giants and the Cardinals again. The other league gets fresh blood. This league gets the default matchup because it cleared its cookies again. I'm fine with that. You fine with that? I'm fine with that.
Matt Holliday's on the team, you know.
Keep trolling the world, everyone. This makes no sense, and that's what's beautiful about it.