Programming Note: Diamondbacks-Giants coverage begins on Thursday at 12 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area
Major League Baseball is a results-oriented business, like any other professional sport. Ryan Vogelsong constantly wrestles with the often unexplainable divide between process and numbers.
It goes both ways. In mid-March, Vogelsong allowed nine runs and 11 hits over 2 2/3 innings in a Spring Training start against the Cleveland Indians. Many thought Vogelsong's chances of contributing to the 2014 squad were slim, and reporters headed to the clubhouse expecting to see smoke coming out of Vogelsong's ears. Instead, he had a grin and seemed almost Zen-like. Well, as close to Zen-like as Vogelsong can be, anyway. He said again and again that his stuff was great -- he just got knocked around on a hot Arizona evening when the balls were jumping.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants score four in seventh, blank D'Backs]
Then there's a night like Wednesday's 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks. Vogelsong tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings as he and three relievers combined on a two-hit shutout. Sure, there were five walks. But what about the zeroes that kept the Giants in lockstep with Josh Collmenter, and made a tough game seem like a cakewalk late as the Giants pulled away?
From one look at the box score, a game like this would be cause for celebration. For Vogelsong, it led to a quick sports psychology appointment with Dr. Timothy Hudson.
"I told Huddy, 'Man, this game will drive you nuts,'" Vogelsong said. "Because there's nights when you go out there, and your stuff's really good, you're commanding the ball and you get knocked around. Then you have a night like tonight, where you're grinding from your first pitch and then you get a good result. That's what makes this game so great, but at the same time drive you nuts."
The Giants beat the D-Backs to stay within 2.5 games of the Dodgers, four games ahead of Pittsburgh for the first Wild Card spot and 5.5 games ahead of Atlanta and Milwaukee, the two Wild Card outsiders. However, the win was the only thing soothing Vogelsong after an outing where he was almost lifted in the second inning. Tim Lincecum trotted to the bullpen with the bases loaded and two out, and Vogelsong got Collmenter to hit a routine grounder to Pablo Sandoval.
"I got pretty lucky that a pitcher was up in that situation. Could've been a whole different story if it was a position player," Vogelsong said.
Bruce Bochy thought Vogelsong "cleaned up the delivery" and ended up "pitching a great game." It seemed like he got into a rhythm when he retired 14 of 15 batters in one stretch, but apparently that was just a mirage.
"I didn't really figure out anything. I was just able to make some pitches when I needed to, really. I was behind the whole game," Vogelsong said. "It was a grind. That's about the only way I can put it."
Sure, but Vogelsong grinds so much that he could set up his own hamburger stand on the mound. One would have to figure Wednesday night's outing was much more pleasant than allowing four homers and eight runs, which he did a week ago in Denver.
"It's easier to shrug one off when it's in Coors Field and it's warm like it was, because you know the ball's going to fly and you're probably going to give up a home run here or there on a ball that probably shouldn't be a home run," said Vogelsong.
"From a stuff standpoint, I was pretty happy with my stuff that day. I'm kind of in between right now. I'm extremely happy I didn't give up any runs but I'm telling myself, 'I've got a lot of work to do this week before I face them again on Monday.'"
One player who doesn't sweat the process quite as much is Gregor Blanco, who said he's a much more relaxed player since Angel Pagan's return.
Blanco is on a bit of a mini-tear of late, and led the Giants with two hits -- including a seventh inning double that drove in the game's first run. However, Blanco failed to get a bunt down earlier in that at-bat. Four pitches later, he made up for his mistake by driving a 1-2 sinker from Oliver Perez down the first base line.
Blanco is known as a fourth outfielder who struggles when pressed into full-time duty, but he's started the last 13 games and hit .360 over that span. That includes a .419 clip in September since Michael Morse went on the shelf with an oblique injury.
"I know right now I'm playing and at some point I might not, but I just want to help the team in any situation that I can," Blanco said. "To be able to do it right now is huge, because we don't have Michael. But when he comes back, we'll see what happens. It's awesome that I can do this job."
Everything seems a whole lot more awesome when the results are going your way in September, even when this great game drives you nuts.