SAN FRANCISCO — Old-timers call it the "Butcher Boy." Youngsters, the "Slash." Whatever its name, the contact made by pitcher Ryan Vogelsong that brought in a run during San Francisco's huge second inning Sunday night proved to be a sign the Giants were on their way to forcing a Game 7 in the NLCS.
Vogelsong's at-bat, along with his dominant nine-strikeout performance over seven innings, helped lead the way in the Giants' 6-1 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park. It's the second time in the series Vogelsong has come up big for the Giants who, after playing on the verge of elimination three times in the first round of the playoffs, are about to do it again with a trip to the World Series at stake.
"I didn't want to let these guys down, I didn't want to let this city down," said Vogelsong, who has a 1.29 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 14 innings in the NLCS.
A former top prospect with the Giants who was traded away and wandered the globe for a decade trying to find success in the majors, Vogelsong leaned on his Christian faith when trying to explain his journey.
"I just believe that God had a plan for me this whole time," said Vogelsong, who turned 35 this summer. "And He's shining down on me right now."
The Giants led 1-0 in the second inning and threatened for more against right-hander Chris Carpenter by putting runners at the corners with one out. On the first pitch to Vogelsong, he showed bunt, but pulled back the bat as Brandon Crawford ran from first. Vogelsong gave a mighty hack and made enough contact for a weak grounder to short, where rookie Pete Kozma bobbled the ball for an error. Vogelsong was given credit for an RBI, as Brandon Belt was moving from third on contact and would have scored regardless.
It was the second critical mistake by Kozma in as many games. Via MLB.com, he made no excuses.
"I just missed it," Kozma said. "I thought I had a handle on it, and the ball just popped out."
Vogelsong hit .093 in the regular season, striking out 31 times in 54 at-bats. He's a .169 hitter in 166 career at-bats and hit .226 a season ago.
"He's probably as good as anybody on the staff at putting the ball in play on the slash," manager Bruce Bochy said. "You look at his average, you may think different. But he can help you with the little things when you need it."
One out later, Marco Scutaro followed with a two-run double to left, giving the Giants a 4-0 lead. Vogelsong, huffing and puffing all of the way, scored from first standing up. When asked about the extra cushion of runs, he said:
"Well, I was looking for the oxygen first."
Pretending to apologize, Scutaro replied: "Couldn't breathe? Sorry, brother."
Vogelsong wasn't having it.
"You can do it every time, buddy," he said. "I'll take it."
The Giants would take a Vogelsong kind of game anytime, from anybody.