SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong personifies the power of concentration. Or, as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it, a "maniacal focus."When game day arrives, Vogelsong releases his intensity with each pitch. His emergence last year, accented by his excellence this season, has proven his ability to channel his energy. Vogelsong combined his typical efficiency on the mound with rare proficiency at the plate Saturday to help the Giants prevail in an Interleague showdown against the Texas Rangers, 5-2. San Francisco's seventh victory in its last nine games also was distinguished by the return of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who was reinstated from the disabled list. Having recovered from his fractured left hamate bone and the subsequent surgery, Sandoval went 1-for-4 with a RBI single. Though Vogelsong wasn't with the Giants in the 2010 World Series, when their pitching bedeviled Texas, the Rangers might have experienced flashbacks to that autumn. Vogelsong (5-2) lasted 7 2/3 innings and limited the Rangers, who lead the American League in scoring and batting average, to three hits -- a pair of first-inning singles and pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland's eighth-inning homer.
Subduing a formidable lineup such as Texas' requires any pitcher to apply himself ceaselessly. Fortunately for the Giants, Vogelsong possesses this ability in abundance."You have to execute, and Vogey's as good as anybody at doing that," Bochy said. "He does such a good job of executing his game plan and making the necessary adjustments," catcher Buster Posey said. Vogelsong didn't panic after yielding those first-inning hits to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre.
"They hit good pitches," Vogelsong reasoned. Thus, he maintained his approach.
"I stayed with the plan of 'hit Buster's glove,'" he said."He kept us off the fat part of the bat," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. Displaying some favoritism, Bochy, last year's National League All-Star manager, named Vogelsong to the pitching staff for the Midsummer Classic. Though Vogelsong faces considerable competition to make this year's All-Star squad, he might actually be pitching better than he did a year ago. Vogelsong won his fifth consecutive decision. The Giants have triumphed in his last seven starts. He lowered his ERA to 2.26, the NL's third-best. He has worked at least six innings in all 11 of his starts. Regarding his focus, Vogelsong said that he's trying to lighten his game-day disposition somewhat. But not too much. "I'm getting a little bit better where I can have more conversation [on] game day," he said. "I try not to have a lot, because once I get in game mode, I kind of like to stay there instead of bouncing in and out. It's just trying to be focused and make sure I'm 100 percent committed to make pitches. ... [Teammates] give me a hard time about it, but that's the way I have to be." Bochy doesn't mind Vogelsong's attitude at all.
"He's fun to watch, because he maintains that from the first pitch through the rest of the game," Bochy said.Vogelsong has saved his best work for AT&T Park, where he has a 1.47 ERA in seven starts this season. He demonstrated his appreciation Saturday by removing his cap and raising it high over his head to acknowledge the roaring throng before disappearing into the dugout. "The energy in this place kind of gets me going," Vogelsong said. "The fans here bring it every night. They're always with us, always behind us. ... I definitely take it to another notch." Vogelsong also sparked San Francisco's offense. He ended a season-long 0-for-20 skid -- which included 18 strikeouts -- by singling off Rangers right-hander Scott Feldman (0-5) and coming around to score in the third inning. Vogelsong attributed his success to tips from Posey, who told him he was uppercutting too much with his swing, and batting coach Hensley Meulens, who told him to throw his hands at the ball. The Giants, whose .183 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs ranked 14th in the NL entering Saturday, collected four hits in such situations to pad their lead. Ryan Theriot singled home Brandon Crawford in the fifth inning before Nate Schierholtz tripled in Angel Pagan one inning later. Sandoval contributed his two-out, run-scoring hit to deliver Gregor Blanco in the seventh. Sandoval ultimately scored on Pagan's double.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.