SAN FRANCISCO – Ryan Vogelsong can show his emotions on the mound, but he sure didn’t get emotional Sunday in discussing his best start of 2013.
His responses were more business-like and practical after he threw eight innings of two-hit ball at the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 4-0 Giants victory at AT&T Park.
[RECAP: Vogelsong brilliant, Giants salvage series split]
Vogelsong’s turbulent season has been well documented – the fractured hand that put him on the shelf for 2 ½ months, the poor numbers he posted before that injury.
Although the right-hander was quite pleased Sunday with how he buzzed through Pittsburgh’s lineup, he didn’t view it as some sort of triumphant capper after his frustrating injury layoff. Vogelsong is simply pleased that he’s throwing like the guy who won 27 games for the Giants from 2011-12.
“Obviously, we’ve got a good amount of games left,” he said. “I just need to keep doing what I’m doing right now. I said after last game, that’s as close as I felt to 2011 and 2012. I just need to stay with that.”
Vogelsong was referencing his previous start against the Boston Red Sox, when he held the American League East leaders to two runs over seven innings. He’s made four starts now since coming off the D.L., and the past two have easily been his best back-to-back efforts in 13 starts overall.
He points to some mechanical adjustments he made, which came after a 3 2/3-inning start at Washington and before his outing against Boston. Vogelsong got with pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner and made changes with the lower half of his body during his delivery.
“I felt like I threw the ball OK in D.C., but my stuff just didn’t have much snap to it,” he said. “My fastball was all right, everything else was rolling over. We tweaked some things in the lower half. It’s given me a little bit more bite at the end of the pitch.”
It showed Sunday. He painted a fastball on the outside corner to ring up Jose Tabata in the third, stranding a runner at second. He made Russell Martin’s knees buckle with a curve ball that dropped in for strike three in the second inning.
Vogelsong (3-4) struck out five and walked one in his 98-pitch effort. He seemed primed to stay in the game and go for just his second career complete game, but manager Bruce Bochy said he didn’t hesitate to pull Vogelsong in favor of Sandy Rosario.
Vogelsong didn’t disagree with the move.
“I was pretty wiped out,” he said. “I’ve been battling a head cold for about a week. I think that zapped my energy more than anything else.”
The Giants hold a $6.5 million option on Vogelsong for 2014, with a $300,000 buyout. Team officials have expressed a desire to bring him back, but it’s no slam dunk. Vogelsong, carrying a 5.58 ERA overall, needs to continue to pitch at Sunday’s level – or something close to it – over the final five weeks.
To hear his teammates talk, there’s no doubt what Vogelsong means to the Giants moving forward.
“He kept that lineup off-balance for eight innings,” catcher Buster Posey said. “He’s a horse. He brings a certain intensity every time out there, the kind of guy you want out there on the mound.”
Right fielder Hunter Pence echoed that opinion.
“He’s so intense, he’s such a competitor, that it feeds into everyone,” Pence said. “It’s a joy to play behind him.”
Vogelsong’s competitiveness was a missing ingredient while he was on the D.L. , according to Pence. But that fiery nature only resonates when Vogelsong is delivering good results to go with it. He was dialed in Sunday.
“It was one of the best-pitched games we’ve had this year,” Bochy said. “He really commanded all his pitches. It was fun to watch, he put on a show -- the art of pitching.”