ST. LOUIS -- Players gathered around the middle of the clubhouse at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, some lounging on leather chairs and others standing around a mounted TV. They watched as Bruce Bochy joined his old friend, Tim Flannery, on an MLB Network show and gave an update on a team that had just lost another star.
While talking about the loss of Hunter Pence, Bochy pointed out that his group is good at focusing forward and moving on after injuries and tough losses. A couple hours later, his players proved him right.
[PAVLOVIC: Oblique strain will put Pence back on DL]
Ryan Vogelsong gritted his teeth and led the charge and the lineup did just enough against Lance Lynn and the Cardinals as the Giants won 2-0 at rainy Busch Stadium. Afterward, they didn't try to downplay this one. They were coming off a disappointing loss and took the field while Pence headed for an MRI machine, but the Giants found a way to scratch out a win.
"This time of year is fun," Vogelsong said. "I know it's only August, but this stretch we're in, this is almost like playoff baseball. I enjoy that intensity and pressure."
Bochy had the right man ready when Mike Leake's hamstring couldn't answer the bell Tuesday. Vogelsong pitched six shutout innings, allowing just two hits. He shook off a slow start -- a 30-pitch first inning -- and thoroughly dominated with a fastball that was so lively that Bochy wondered if he was even going to use his secondary pitches. Vogelsong retired 16 of the final 17 Cardinals he faced, striking out the side in the third inning and setting the Cardinals down with ease in his final frame.
"He's a warrior," Bochy said. "This guy will give you all he has, and that's all you can ask. He's well-prepared and he has a great focus. That was a long first inning and that's kind of been his niche, but he responded."
It was just over a month ago that Vogelsong had a rough finish to a start at home against the Phillies. He felt he had great stuff that night, but a brief flurry left him with four earned runs on his 5 2/3-inning line. Undeterred, Vogelsong focused on sticking with the mechanics that he felt worked that night. On Tuesday, he said he has felt in a groove since then, outside of a rough night in Atlanta when he was called on for a save and couldn't close the door.
"I'm trying to keep doing the same things I've been doing mechanically," he said, "And I'll go from there."
The Giants may now have no choice but to go forward with Vogelsong in their rotation. He's an obvious fill-in for Matt Cain if he struggles against the same Cardinals on Wednesday and ends up getting bumped from the starting five. There is also some thought within the clubhouse that -- should Mike Leake return this weekend -- Chris Heston might be well-served by a quick Triple-A breather before rosters expand in September. Vogelsong has learned not to worry about that stuff. He prepares as a starter and reliever, and his routine is working.
--- If you somehow missed it, here's the latest on Hunter Pence.
--- Sergio Romo since the All-Star break: 14 innings, 0 runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, 21 strikeouts. Good luck, hitters.
--- Ryan Lollis went to school at Missouri and had coaches in the stands tonight, along with a few family members. He said some of them wore shirts with his face on the front. Those who came saw Lollis pick up his first career hit.
"Yeah, I guess you can say I got the monkey off my back," Lollis said. "It was great, and we got a win so it went from a nice day to a great day."
Well, it can still get better. When Lollis talked to reporters, he still didn't know where the ball was. Sounds like someone was pranking the rookie for a few minutes after his big night.
--- Madison Bumgarner had a prior engagement after this game so he wasn't available to talk to reporters. Ordinarily, that wouldn't even be mentioned -- Bumgarner doesn't start again until Friday. But of course, Bumgarner found a starring role Tuesday. He pinch-hit for Vogelsong in the seventh and ignited a two-out rally with a base hit.
Bumgarner became the first Giants pitcher since Kirk Rueter in 2004 to pick up a hit as a pinch-hitter. He had been 0-for-4 in his career, but Bochy mentioned earlier this week that Bumgarner -- who hit his fourth homer Sunday -- could see some more action at the plate. Bumgarner wasn't sure Bochy was completely serious.
"We talked about it," Bochy said. "I said, 'I wasn't laughing when I said it.' Especially when you're short (with Pence out)."
Vogelsong can handle a bat, and he was ready to go up there to sacrifice bunt if either Lollis or Justin Maxwell had reached. With two outs, Bumgarner got the call. Cool, Ryan?
"I don't know if I'll ever be okay with (a pitcher pinch-hitting for me), but if you ever have one hit for you, he's got to be the one," Vogelsong said. "You've got to swallow your pride."
The single put Bochy in another awkward spot. He wanted to save Ehire Adrianza for a double-switch and didn't want to burn backup catcher Andrew Susac or Juan Perez, the third healthy position player on the bench. Chris Heston, the second-best hitter on the current staff after Bumgarner, was told he might run for Bumgarner.
"I didn't want to use another (position) player because I wanted to keep my options open," Bochy said. "Heston was ready to run, but Bum might've been upset and challenged Heston to a race tomorrow."
Bochy knew that any player that entered wouldn't need to steal, so he decided to let the franchise's ace go "base to base as we tried to get (the run) in." Bumgarner took a two-step lead at first and took off slowly on a 3-2 pitch to Gregor Blanco, who walked. He did the same when Matt Duffy walked. When Brandon Belt was plunked, Bumgarner strolled home. Bochy called the second run "huge," but it came with a price.
"Now we've got to hear from him for a few days," Bochy said. "He was saying how easy that was."
Bumgarner may just get another crack at it Wednesday. The bench will be short again because of the Pence injury, and Bumgarner's teammates expect him to be ready. Vogelsong praised him for having good at-bats, something that gets lost because so many just marvel at Bumgarner's power. It sounds like other pitchers might want a shot, too. Asked about Bumgarner hitting for him, Vogelsong at first frowned.
"I probably would've gotten a hit," he said.