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Giants look to Vogelsong, Zito to extend series

The SportsXchange

The biggest question being asked of the San Francisco Giants going into their National League Division Series with Cincinnati was whether they would use Barry Zito or Ryan Vogelsong in the rotation.

Now, with the Giants facing elimination going into Game 3 on Tuesday night, they're using them both.

The team announced Monday that Zito, who just finished by far his best season in San Francisco, will start a potential Game 4 on Wednesday night. But first Vogelsong, who like Zito pitched well at the end of the season, must help the Giants get to a fourth game. He finished 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA but had a 2.36 ERA in his first 16 starts.

"Really, if you look at how consistent he has been for the most part this year ... I think he's earned this and that's how we arrived at this," manager Bruce Bochy told reporters.

Vogelsong was at his most consistent in his last five starts, pitching between 5 2/3 and 6 2/3 innings and giving up three runs or fewer every time. That came after he had several stretches of uneven performances, mixed with better results, in the middle part of the season.

"He had a hiccup for three or four starts, but his last two starts he's gotten back on track and thrown the ball well," Bochy said.

The Game 1 injury to right-hander Johnny Cueto has left the Reds' rotation a bit thinner, but they have the luxury of starting Homer Bailey, who threw a no-hitter in his next to last start of the regular season and then pitched four more scoreless innings in his final outing.

Cueto's status was still a question mark Monday.

"He was much better today, so we just have to wait and see how he is in another day or so," general manager Walt Jocketty told mlb.com.

Manager Dusty Baker said, "We're going to do what's best for (Cueto). I just hope that's good for us, too."

The Reds have another luxury: Matt Latos, who has been tough on the Giants in his career, pitched only four innings in Game 1 after Cueto had to leave eight pitches in because of back spasms. He would be pitching on three days' rest if he starts Game 4 -- the Reds had not named a starter for that game as of Monday afternoon.

There had been speculation that the Giants would start their ace, Matt Cain, on three days' rest in Game 4, but they opted instead for Zito, who won his last seven decisions to finish 15-8. In addition, the Giants have won the last 11 games that Zito started.

"Barry has won some big games for us," said Bochy, who said the idea of starting Cain on short rest wasn't appealing because of the way so many starters have struggled with that over the years.

Monday's announcement made it clear that the Giants are serious about their plan to use Tim Lincecum solely as a reliever in the series. Lincecum, coming off the worst season of his career (10-15, 5.18 ERA) retired six of the seven hitters he faced in a Game 2 relief appearance.

All the talk of Game 4 and 5 starters will be moot unless the Giants find a way to sidetrack the Reds, who have looked dominant in the first two games. That starts with defeating Bailey, who is pitching better than he ever has.

"Number one, I think he blossomed because he has remained healthy for the first time in his career," Baker told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "You hope that a person blossoms and matures just through natural living and learning from your mistakes.

"Our guys are different. I urge them to be different. You don't want everybody to be cloned to be the same on your team. That's not what life is all about. We have guys from different walks of life, different countries, different states, different one guy drives a truck, one guy drives a BMW and the other guy drives whatever.

"I urge them to be themselves and I've said many times, his strength is also his weakness sometimes where he's a bit stubborn sometimes, but that's a good trait if you can direct it to the right direction."
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