8/7/2014 2:19 A.M. ET
Vogelsong rebounds strong from early blunder
After baserunning mishap, Giants righty bears down to hold off Brewers
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Vogelsong's performance Wednesday night ended up being somewhere in this range: determined, gritty, tough.
He was pitching against a difficult lineup in a hitter-friendly park. The home-plate umpire was putting the squeeze on the strike zone. There were a lot of factors lining up against Vogelsong. And one of them was his own mistake in the first inning.
But at the end, he was the winning pitcher and the San Francisco Giants were the winning team, gaining a 7-4 decision over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Vogelsong was coming off the first nine-inning complete game of his career last week, a two-hitter against the Mets. His work here didn't sparkle in that fashion, but it was still exemplary. He limited the Brewers to one run over six innings and left with a 4-1 lead.
Vogelsong bounced back from adversity, even though part of it was self-inflicted.
He made a mistake that cost the Giants at least one run and brought a three-run first inning to a close. Batting with the bases loaded and two outs, Vogelsong hit a bouncer to shortstop Jean Segura. Figuring that Segura would get a force at second, Vogelsong "shut it down" as Giants manager Bruce Bochy put it. The runner going to second, Brandon Crawford, was ruled safe, but because Vogelsong was not running, Segura was still able to throw to first in time to retire Vogelsong.
"He was really upset with himself and what happened," Bochy said. "We've all been in situations where we kind of embarrass ourselves a little bit. He just assumed that [the runner] would be out at second base and he shut it down.
"That could have been costly. That's a run. And you've got a good hitter (Hunter Pence) coming up. Now your pitcher is mad at himself and he gives up a home run (to Brewers leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez). But I give him credit. He regrouped and settled down and pitched well."
"Stupid mistake on my part," Vogelsong said. "The thing that stunk the most was I cost Hunter a chance to come up and hit with the bases loaded and keep the inning going. It could have been a huge inning for us.
"I came in and I fired my helmet and [Bochy] said: 'Let it go, you've got a game to pitch.' That probably helped me more than anything. I'm sure he was upset with me, but to hear him say that kind of reminded me that I needed to get my head in the right place. There was a game to pitch after that. You've got to have a short memory and do what you're supposed to do."
It was never really smooth sailing for Vogelsong in this outing, but he still found a way. After the Gomez homer, the Brewers didn't score off him again.
"It kind of felt like I was trying something new every inning," Vogelsong said. "I was just fortunate to have balls hit right at people and made some pitches when I needed to. I made just enough pitches to keep them off the barrel."
Vogelsong had thrown 102 pitches in the complete game against the Mets but here he was forced to throw 104 pitches to get through six innings. This is not a pitcher who struggles with command. Vogelsong has issued only 35 walks in 133 2/3 innings.
The strike zone as interpreted Wednesday night by plate umpire Hal Gibson III could be described in two ways: One, it was smaller than the rules of the game indicate. Two, this strike zone could explain why millions of American children are playing soccer instead of baseball. When every marginal pitch is a ball rather than a strike what do you get? A game that lasts 3 hours, 53 minutes. You want a livelier pace of game? Call the pitches that are strikes, strikes.
To Vogelsong's credit, he accepted the notion of a smaller strike zone as one more factor with which he had to deal.
"You're going to have nights like that when [the strike zone] is a little tighter than normal," he said. "I thought there were a few pitches here and there, but at the same time, you've got to pitch to that. You can't keep throwing the ball over there and see if he's going to call it. You've got to come into the zone a little bit. That makes it challenging at times, especially with their lineup. They're not guys you want to come into the zone to."
The Giants, battling to keep up with the Dodgers in the National League West, really needed a win here. Vogelsong made a major mistake, but regrouped, battled and put his team back on the path to victory.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.