By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
For those familiar with the story of San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, his outstanding performance tonight just adds to the heart-warming mystique of his big league journey.
His professional baseball path started when he was drafted by the Giants in 1998 and finally came full circle when he signed once again with San Francisco in 2011. In between stops, he had stints on various teams—including those in Japan and the Venezuelan Winter League. He never performed at the level he felt he was capable of and bounced around wondering if his journey was coming to an end. Even as he watched the Giants in the 2010 World Series, he wondered if he would play baseball again. Unsure if it really was the end of his career, he wanted to end his baseball dream with the same team that he started with.
But 2011 was not the end. Instead, it was a breakout year in which he even was named an All-Star.
Though his 2012 was not as stellar as that magical 2011, his outing in Game 2 of the NLCS reminded many of the inspirational story of Vogelsong.
“I’ve obviously been through a lot and that definitely helps. I think I read a couple of quotes from other guys saying you don’t get this chance too often and obviously this is my first time having it. I’m just trying to make the most of it and stay mentally focused on every pitch until I’m out of the game,” Vogelsong said after the game. “Whether that’s come from the things that I’ve been through in the past, probably, but just trying to soak it all in and have fun and get the job done.”
Indeed, he got the job done. In the Giants 7-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Vogelsong became the first San Francisco pitcher to have a quality start as he went 7.0 innings, allowing only 1 run on 4 hits. As he left the mound for the dugout after pitching his last inning, fans chanted “Vog-ey! Vog-ey!” in appreciation. Prior this start, the early exit of the starters was not met with grateful chants since it was hard ignore the inability of the starting rotation to make it to six innings.
“We’ve obviously had some rough outings here to start this postseason, but guys are still throwing the ball well. It was something that I really didn’t think about going into the game because there’s enough pressure and thoughts going through your mind other than thinking about trying to make it past the 6th inning. It’s something you really don’t need to add to your plate,” Vogelsong said about having the best outing of the starters. “But it feels good. You can start a trend with something like this. So hopefully this starts a trend of our starters starting to pitch better and get deeper in games.”
It would be fitting that the starting pitcher who was not a part of the 2010 team would be the one to serve as the catalyst for the staff. This is a different team, a different year, a different chemistry. Vogelsong has frequently been a symbol of tenacity and faith—two things that can help the team’s momentum to create their own identity separate from that 2010 team.
Sometimes it takes more than that daily hype-up session. Sometimes a team needs that spark to ignite the fire that makes them unstoppable.
“This is a big game. We lost two in the last series, and that’s the last thing we wanted to do is go in St. Louis down two games,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Vogelsong. “He came through for us. He won the game for us. He got us deep in the game and got us a quality start, which we needed sorely. It’s just nice to have him on track throwing the ball the way he is. When he’s on top of his game he’s tough.”
In Game 2, he showed he was on top of his game and he knew it as he said, “It’s the best I’ve probably thrown the ball in a Big League game after the third inning, for sure.”
With that performance, another highlight is added to the legend of Ryan Vogelsong. As the best Giants pitcher of these playoffs with a 1-0 record and 1.50 ERA, he also became the first pitcher to win a postseason game at home since 2010.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.