Instant Replay: Big inning burns Vogelsong, Giants
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Last year, Tim Lincecum finished with the highest ERA in the National League among all qualified starting pitchers.

Nearly a quarter of the way through this season, it’s Ryan Vogelsong whose name appears at the bottom of that list.

A stalwart right hander who refused to give in for two seasons, Vogelsong is now giving it up -– even when he appears to have good stuff. Another promising start blew up in the fifth inning, dooming the Giants in a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves Thursday night.

Vogelsong didn’t make it out of the fifth -– and he’s thrown just one quality start in seven outings this season. Last year, he threw quality starts in 18 of his first 19 assignments.

He is winless in four starts at AT&T Park, where he’s given up 22 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings. And he has a 7.78 ERA.

Starting pitching report
Vogelsong (2-2) had toxic stuff early on.

He struck out the side in the first inning and racked up seven strikeouts by the fourth -- one short of matching his career high. He hit 93 mph, tailed his fastball to the outside corner and changed eye levels as effectively as he’s done all season.

He entered the fifth ahead 3-2, having allowed just a two-run home run to Brian McCann in the second inning.

But the fifth inning has been a steep grade for Vogelsong all season, and more often than not, he appears to run out of gas.

Just as it did in his previous outing against the Dodgers, it all broke down in the fifth. Jordan Schafer lined a triple an inch above first baseman Brandon Belt’s leaping attempt. Then Andrelton Simmons followed with a tying ground out with the infield back. Justin Upton followed with another triple that split the gap in right-center, Freddie Freeman singled him home, and Vogelsong departed after walking Dan Uggla.

Vogelsong bit into a towel while sitting in the dugout as Jose Mijares allowed both inherited runners to score on a pair of well-placed ground singles.

And so, the final tally: Vogelsong has allowed 14 of his 36 runs in the fifth inning, when opponents are batting .500 against him (16-for-32).

Bullpen report
Mijares didn’t pitch poorly while allowing both of Vogelsong’s runners to score. McCann hit a playable grounder up the middle that deflected off second baseman Scutaro for a single that scored an alert Freeman from second base. Then B.J. Upton grounded another RBI single just beyond the reach of shortstop Brandon Crawford.

George Kontos and Chad Gaudin each threw two scoreless innings -– the kind of heavy use that might come back to hurt the Giants in this series while they play a reliever short because of Santiago Casilla’s knee pain.

At the plate
Buster Posey had a tremendous night at the plate against hard-throwing Julio Teheran.

He singled on a curveball in the first inning to score Scutaro, who had extended his hitting streak to nine games with a double.

Then Posey put the Giants ahead in the third with perhaps his best at-bat of the year. He worked Teheran for nine pitches, fouling off two 94-mph fastballs with Pablo Sandoval running. Teheran, perhaps thinking he’d sped up Posey’s bat, went back to an offspeed pitch. But it was a hovering slider and Posey stayed back long enough to smack it into the left field seats for a two-run home run.

Beginning April 20, Posey has hit safely in 15-of-18 games while sporting a .356 average. He’s hit all five of his home runs over that span, too.

But the Giants were quiet the rest of the way.

In field
Scutaro’s wobbly defense is an emerging concern. He committed an error when he fumbled Schafer’s slow ground ball in the third inning, then he couldn’t make a play on McCann’s grounder to his right in the fifth. It deflected off Scutaro for an RBI single that scored the first of two runners that Mijares inherited.

The Giants announced 41,365 paid, not counting the seagulls.

Up next
The Giants and Braves play the second game of this four-game series Friday night at AT&T Park. Matt Cain (1-2, 5.57) will oppose right-hander Tim Hudson (4-1, 3.83), who picked up his 200th career victory April 30. (Andy Pettitte and Roy Halladay are the only other active pitchers in the 200-win club.) First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.