SAN FRANCISCO — Ryan Vogelsong walked slowly down the hallway, stepping past a clubhouse he called home for the last five seasons. Madison Bumgarner joined him, and two of the fiercest competitors to ever wear orange and black headed for the exit.
Bumgarner is one of the few who can match Vogelsong's fire, and so far in his young career, Bumgarner has not broken down on the field. The glare always remains but maybe one day he’ll be in the spot Vogelsong was in Monday night. There are times when you can’t hold back, and as a sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation, Vogelsong broke from character.
The 39-year-old held up one hand and saluted a roaring crowd. Then he tipped his cap, turning and waving to all corners of a park he loves.
“That’s very out of character for me, especially after I just gave up two home runs,” Vogelsong said. “Obviously I was pretty upset, but there are moments in this game where you have to stop and look around. That’s not something I’ve done well leading up to today — to take a minute and soak it all in.
“I just felt like I had to and I appreciated every person that stood and clapped for me tonight. It was amazing.”
It was a rare night at AT&T Park. Not many cornerstones of this three-title dynasty have come back wearing different colors, but Vogelsong had no choice. He wanted to return but the Giants moved on. So, he came back, turned in yet another grinding performance, and beat his old team. The Giants lost 8-5 to the Pirates, dropping a series opener for the ninth time in 10 second-half tries.
This one was like the others in so many ways but one: Vogelsong took some of the sting out of the night for a fan base wondering if this season will ever turn around.
“That was well-deserved, a nice hand,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the ovation. “He did a lot of good things here. Vogey pitched a good ballgame.”
Vogelsong actually didn’t think he did. He wasn’t thrilled with his performance — four runs in 5 2/3 innings — and said the win belonged to his teammates, who picked him up with early rallies off Matt Moore and three late runs against the Giants bullpen. For the Giants, this was just a little more salt in the wound. They have spent a month doing the exact opposite of what Vogelsong’s teammates did for him.
Moore had good stuff early but gave up four singles and a walk in the three-run fourth. In the sixth, he tried to throw a fastball up and away to Gregory Polanco and missed. The two-run shot gave Vogelsong a three-run lead.
The lineup fought back, with a rare two-homer inning chasing Vogelsong. It was just last Friday that Bochy said the lineup needed to start scoring four-or-more consistently. A game after scoring seven and losing, the Giants scored five and lost. Again, the bullpen melted down.
“That’s what we’ve got to tighten up, our pitching,” Bochy said. “We got back in the game and our bullpen was a little leaky.”
If it’s not one leak it’s another for a ship that’s slowly sinking. The Pirates are headed the opposite direction, and they put the game away with pitching and defense. Andrew McCutchen robbed Eduardo Nuñez of two RBI with a diving catch in the seventh.
“I thought double for sure, at least,” Nuñez said, shaking his head. “You give him credit. He made a great play. He’s really good. That’s why he’s one of the best, because he can make that kind of play in that kind of situation. You have to give some credit to McCutchen.”
The Giants have been forced to do an awful lot of that lately. On Monday, the caps were tipped toward Vogelsong, who will be welcomed at this park the rest of his life. The appreciation started early, with Vogelsong getting applause the second he walked out to right field to warm up.
“I’m out there in the right field corner and the fans are screaming at me and I loved every second of it and I’m trying to dial it in,” he said. “It was just tough, just tough overall. You go out for the first inning and you’re not expecting a standing (ovation) when you run out on the field for the first time … but I don’t expect anything less from these fans. They’re first class and they always have been.
“There are moments in these games you want to hold onto and remember for the rest of your life and tonight was one of those.”