SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants are running out of different ways to describe Ryan Vogelsong's value, how dominant he has appeared on the mound and how surprising all of this has been.
After a three-year stint in Japan and a journey that kept him out of the Major Leagues and out of a starting job since 2004, Vogelsong has not only emerged as an unexpected, much-needed shot in the arm for the Giants and a seamless addition to their star-studded rotation, he's pitching like one of the best in the league.
Vogelsong added another chapter to his stunning comeback Sunday afternoon in AT&T Park, throwing eight dominant innings, striking out seven and adding a key sacrifice bunt in the go-ahead eighth inning as he picked up his fourth win in a 2-1 decision over the Rockies. The 33-year-old lowered his ERA to 1.68, the second-lowest mark in the Major Leagues, and that number stands at 0.69 in his past six outings.
"It's been a long road for him, but he never gave up. He just kept grinding to get back to the Major Leagues and was very determined -- that's obvious," Bochy said. "He wanted to be a Giant, and that was special to us. Now he's getting his chance, and he's taken full advantage of it. He's pitching as well as anybody in the game.
"To be doing what he's doing, it's one of the best stories I've seen since I've been in the game."
Vogelsong came to the plate with the game tied in the eighth and Manny Burriss standing at first, pinch-running following Pat Burrell's leadoff walk. He dropped a bunt off reliever Matt Lindstrom that everyone in China Basin knew was coming, and Burriss sped to second, moved to third on a passed ball from Chris Iannetta and scored on Andres Torres' single to center.
The thunderous applause that followed Vogelsong leaving the mound after his eighth and final inning was matched -- and possibly exceeded -- by the response to his bunt, another reason for Vogelsong to thank the fans who have come to adore their resilient right-hander.
"It's awesome. Every experience I've had in the big leagues before this was basically as a long man, so I was only pitching in games where we were blowing them out and getting blown out -- and most of the time it was getting blown out," Vogelsong said. "To be on a team and be counted on to go out there and win games, it's awesome. It's a great feeling.
"The fans are smart here. They know the game. They know how important it was. You can see by that ovation they know what's going on."
Vogelsong's one mistake came with two outs in the fifth, after he tossed a 2-2 changeup to Iannetta. He thought it was the third strike and began walking off the mound, but home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski called it a ball and the at-bat continued. Vogelsong slammed his glove down a few times in frustration, and Ianetta took the next pitch over the left-center-field wall to put the Rockies up, 1-0.
Despite the one lapse on the mound, Vogelsong tore apart the heart of the Rockies' order, striking out Carlos Gonzalez three times. Ty Wigginton had two hits for the Rockies, Seth Smith added another, and Iannetta's homer made up the entirety of Colordo's offensive attack.
"Vogelsong was good," said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. "He's been good for them all year, not only against us, but other teams as well. So you tip your cap to him and move on."
While Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel didn't last as long as Vogelsong, he was just as effective at keeping the Giants off the board, carrying a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings and leaving after seven, having allowed two hits and two walks while striking out four.
With nothing to show but a pair of walks by Brandon Crawford and Torres, Miguel Tejada picked up the Giants' first hit on a single to right field. Torres moved to third and scored when Freddy Sanchez shot a single up the middle to tie the game.
That was all the Giants needed until the eighth, when Bochy entrusted Vogelsong to drop the sacrifice bunt and keep the Giants' rally going.
"That's not an easy task, facing a guy that's throwing that hard. But he got the job done," Bochy said. "He got his nose in there and made sure he got it down. We got a break on the wild pitch, but it wouldn't have mattered because Torres came through there. Those type of things win ballgames."
Closer Brian Wilson finished the job in the ninth, picking up his 17th save in a 1-2-3 inning to give the Giants the series victory and a 10-2 home record against National League West opponents.
Barry Zito, whose spot Vogelsong assumed at the end of April, is set to make a rehab start in San Jose on Monday, and his return to the team isn't too far off. Vogelsong, for his part, didn't want to talk about it. It's out of his control, he said, and he just wants to focus on his next start.
But Bochy acknowledged that a decision will be made soon -- one that will allow Vogelsong to continue his magical season in the starting rotation.
"We're starting to talk about it," Bochy said. "But it's obvious Vogey's not going anywhere. He's going to be out there every fifth day."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.