WASHINGTON – You’ll find row upon row of embassies here in the District, most of them sumptuous buildings that look like layer cakes and turreted castles and moneyed provost’s homes with their brick and ivy.
It is a lot of space and cash devoted to a purpose: smoothing over wrinkles, winning favor and marinating unwelcome messages in tact.
Ryan Vogelsong could apply for a position at any of them.
An unhappy and frustrated starting pitcher never second-guessed his manager with more finesse and respect than Vogelsong did following a debacle of a 14-6 loss to the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Sunday.
Vogelsong handed the ball to Manager Bruce Bochy with a 6-3 lead and one out in the sixth inning. The Giants bullpen, which had a major league-low 1.89 ERA since the All-Star break, proceeded to give up 11 runs on an astounding 14 hits in 2 2/3 innings. This did not please anyone in road grays -- most notably the starting pitcher.
“I was feeling stronger as the game went on, but that’s his job,” said Vogelsong, who was pulled after allowing a solo home run to Ian Desmond on his 95th pitch. “Did I feel good enough to physically keep pitching? Yeah. But that’s his call.”
Asked to elaborate on whether he lobbied to stay in, or under what circumstances he would fight to keep the ball, Vogelsong’s answer revealed more than how he felt on an unseasonably cool afternoon in a Mid-Atlantic summer.
It revealed what Vogelsong wants to be for a team struggling to stay in two playoff races.
“I kind of felt I needed to step up when (Matt) Cain went down,” said Vogelsong, who has a 2.59 ERA in his last five starts. “I know we got Jake (Peavy) and he’s got a great track record, but I feel I had to step up, and I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well.”
[BAGGARLY: Hudson, Peavy stunned to draw ejections from dugout]
In other words, he wants to be a rotation pillar now. He wants the Giants to lean on him more. And part of that is being trusted to pitch deeper into games. Besides, he never backs down from a fight -- and that's a quality that might be unwise to turn down.
Vogelsong’s previous start at Wrigley Field on Tuesday was shortened by rain, then extended by the first successful protest in 28 years. This time, there was nothing in the rulebook to save the Giants. The league does not hear laments.
But would Vogelsong take a more active role in trying to stay in games?
The diplomacy was remarkable.
“We’ve been around each other long enough that he knows what I’m about, and he knows I don’t want to come out of the game, so I’m not going to tell him,” Vogelsong said.
“He made a decision today,” Vogelsong continued. “He’s the manager. If he wants to ask me if I feel good, he’ll ask me. That’s why he has that title, and why he runs the team.”
Vogelsong had a no-hitter through three innings, but his boat rocked as he had trouble getting used to the mound while issuing three walks. Three doubles over a five-batter span in the fourth led to two runs.
“I was a little all over the place but I felt I worked my butt off and made pitches when I had to,” Vogelsong said. “I felt I was getting stronger in the sixth. I made a mistake to Desmond and he hit one out.”
Bochy looked at a bullpen that had allowed just two runs in 17 innings on the trip, and Jeremy Affeldt was well rested. As often happens in baseball, perfect holiday plans turned into an improvised bed in the gate area. Affeldt allowed five hits to five batters, most of them well placed and two of them exceeding the competence of Michael Morse in left field. And a Nationals team that owns more comebacks than Betty White rollicked to its 12th victory in 13 games.
“I’ll take those matchups every time,” Bochy said of Affeldt’s five batters. “He’s been throwing great. He just didn’t get the same sink on the ball. You get one of these innings and you feel helpless. We just could not get an out. … I mean, son of a gun. We need an out any way and we couldn’t get it.”
Bochy’s hook was far from the only storyline as the Giants blew the five-run lead they built off Stephen Strasburg, and then some.
For instance, the sixth-inning rally might have been halted prior to conception if Bochy had put a defensive replacement in left field for Morse, who couldn’t get a glove on Bryce Harper’s catchable double.
Morse also fumbled a ball in the left field corner, allowing catcher Jose Lobaton to score from first base.
But with Angel Pagan needing a day to rest a mild calf injury, an early exit for Morse wasn’t possible.
Affeldt was a fine attaché to the delegation, standing up and accepting blame after his ball kept cutting when he wanted it to sink.
“I didn’t throw it where I was supposed to throw it,” he said. “The ground balls found holes. The fly balls dropped. Sometimes it goes your way. Today it didn’t, and it was a product of me not hitting my spots. … I didn’t do my job. I take full responsibility for it.”
Affeldt said the one good sinker he threw was to Denard Span, who chopped it off the plate for a single.
There was a time Sunday when the Giants might have considered resting a few starters. Instead, the Nationals blew open a game the Giants already thought they’d driven a truck through. Buster Posey ended up catching a near four-hour game. And after a cross-country flight, another looms on Monday.
The loss prevented the Giants from coming home with a winning road trip that included the longest rain delay in history for a completed game, a historic protest, a neck-high home run from Hunter Pence, pure perfection from Yusmeiro Petit and even the ejection of two-fifths of their starting rotation (Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson, for arguing from the dugout Sunday).
Tim Lincecum is facing an ejection of another sort, with his next start Thursday listed as TBA.
After all that, Vogelsong used one more bit of finesse. When asked his emotions about the whole trip, a question he was in no mind to answer, he did not concoct something that sounded good.
“I’m … still trying to digest today a little bit,” he said.