SAN FRANCISCO — Yunel Escobar ambushed Ryan Vogelsong. The veteran right-hander spent the rest of his night swinging back.
Vogelsong gave up a leadoff homer but got the Giants through five and Gregor Blanco paced a lineup that did just enough for a 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals. With the Dodgers trailing the Reds 10-3 in the eighth when they shut it down at AT&T Park, the Giants were looking at a one-game swing in the National League West.
Vogelsong needed 29 pitches to get out of the first inning but allowed just one run, a solo homer by Escobar on the first pitch of the game. After walking the bases loaded, Vogelsong got Wilson Ramos to ground out and end the frame. He locked in from there.
Michael Taylor and Stephen Strasburg went down swinging in a quick second inning and Vogelsong blew fastballs past Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman in the third. The Nationals put runners on the corners in the fourth, but Taylor popped up and Strasburg again struck out.
Stephen Strasburg also needed some time to settle in, and the Giants took advantage. They scored two runs in the first on singles by Matt Duffy and Buster Posey and a triple by Gregor Blanco. Kelby Tomlinson led off the second with a triple but was stranded, and the Giants again wasted an opportunity in the third. With Posey on second, Pence hit a hard shot to right that was scooped cleanly by Harper. Third-base coach Roberto Kelly frantically waved Posey home and he was easily thrown out by Harper, who has one of the league’s strongest arms.
Vogelsong left with a lead, and went out in style. He gave up a two-out single to Harper in the fifth but then threw a curveball past Zimmerman on his 94th and final pitch.
Hunter Strickland carried the lead into the seventh and Gregor Blanco padded it. He drew a walk, stole second and scored standing up on Brandon Belt’s bloop to left.
Sergio Romo struck out two in the eighth and Santiago Casilla picked up the save.
Starting pitching report: Vogelsong went five innings in his second spot start, giving up one run on three hits and four walks. He struck out a season-high eight and continued to show the kind of stuff that briefly had the Giants viewing him as a back-of-the-bullpen presence.
Bullpen report: Strickland never got enough credit for blowing Ian Desmond away with the bases loaded in Game 1 of the NLDS. Anyway, he blew Desmond away again in the sixth inning. Strickland dominated the seventh, too, and threw 16 of 18 pitches for strikes while retiring all six Nats he faced.
At the plate: Blanco has a .367 on-base percentage. He might be the leadoff hitter for a while.
In the field: Zimmerman’s hard shot up the middle was practically past Crawford when he speared it for an out in the first inning. It ended up being a big out for Vogelsong.
Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 42,109 human beings, including a friend of mine who spent the whole night in the garden and refused to come say hi.
Up next: Few in baseball have been better this season than Max Scherzer. He’s 11-8 with a 2.44 ERA and spent a chunk of the first half flirting with no-hitters. He’ll face Matt Cain, who has a 5.59 ERA since returning from the DL.