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FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong's baseball journey took him back to the Minor Leagues and across the ocean to Japan before he landed in a good place with the Giants, the team that drafted him in the first place.
Even though he might have a lot of mileage on his luggage, when it comes to pitching in 2012, at least, it's clear Vogelsong enjoys the comforts of home.
His 2.86 ERA in 15 regular-season home starts ranked 10th in the National League and was a full run lower than his road ERA, so it's with that background that he takes the ball Monday for Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, meeting an all-time postseason star in the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter.
With the Giants falling behind in the NLCS after a 6-4 loss in Sunday's opener, it will be Vogelsong's turn to take the home mound at AT&T Park, and he is looking forward to it.
Loves to face: Hunter Pence: 5-for-27, 7 K. Hates to face: Ryan Theriot: 7-for-15, 1 BB.
Loves to face: Matt Holliday: 1-for-5, 1 K. Hates to face: Carlos Beltran: 4-for-11, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI.
Why he'll win: After pitching 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Nationals, it appears Carpenter's command and arm strength are no longer concerns.
Why he'll win: Vogelsong was strong at home this year, going 7-4 with a 2.86 ERA
Pitcher beware: Carpenter has pitched a full six innings in only two of his four starts in 2012.
Pitcher beware: In his first career postseason start in Game 3 of the NLDS, Vogelsong lasted only five innings despite throwing 95 pitches.
Bottom line: As he proved in his NLDS start, Carpenter is precisely the pitcher the Cardinals want on the mound in October.
Bottom line: Vogelsong may only have one career postseason start, but he still has eight years of big league experience to fall back on.
"Well, it's no secret, I've said in the past, that I definitely feed off the energy that this crowd brings," Vogelsong said Sunday. "I'm sure it's going to be pretty intense [Monday] night. It's pretty intense on a regular-season game here in the middle of June."
Of course, every postseason start comes with an energetic atmosphere, and Vogelsong was more than up to the task in his postseason debut on the road in Cincinnati.
In the first of the Giants' three must-win games against the Reds, Vogelsong allowed one earned run on three hits in five innings, although three walks helped contribute to bumping his pitch count to 95 by that point.
And he came out of it with the knowledge that he can handle the pressure of a postseason start just fine.
"Surprisingly I wasn't nervous," Vogelsong said. "And that worried me a little bit, because in the past when I've been in some not quite as big games as that, but throughout the regular season and a little bit last year and some stuff in the past with me in Japan, the nerves are usually good. And I didn't have any, really. I was a little worried about that."
He left the Giants with nothing to worry about with his Game 3 performance, holding off a potent Reds attack to keep his team within striking distance.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said afterward he'd have liked to have stuck with Vogelsong another inning, but in a 1-1 tie, the manager felt compelled to try to get something started with pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff, who ended up striking out.
"I figured we had one more inning with him and we weren't doing anything offensively, so we were trying to get a hit at that point and get things going, and it's never easy to take out a pitcher who was getting locked in, but like I said, he was approaching 100 pitches in five innings," Bochy said. "That's a lot of work and he did his job, and part of it is the faith I have in the bullpen, and they came through for us."
Indeed, the bullpen closed out the remainder of the game into the 10th, when the Giants managed a run in the top of the frame and Sergio Romo closed it out with a second spotless inning for the win that kept the Giants' postseason going.
Vogelsong definitely made an impression with the first postseason start of his career.
"It saved us," Bochy said. "Vogey was trying to settle in. Once he did, he pitched great. What a tremendous effort he gave us, and the pitch count got up there a little bit, but we held them at bay and he gave us a chance."
Said catcher Buster Posey: "He just threw the ball really well to both sides of the plate, and it started with his fastball. He was able to run it in on the righties' hands, sink it to the lefties, threw some offspeed pitches behind in the count."
As he heads into his second venture on the postseason mound, Vogelsong is facing similar circumstances -- they don't have to win, but about the last thing the Giants need at this point is to fall behind 2-0 in a series, even if they showed against the Reds that they can bounce back from that.
Vogelsong steps in against a team he handled quite well on the road his one opportunity this season. Vogelsong threw seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits, in a 15-0 Giants win at Busch Stadium in August.
"For a lot of the guys in that lineup, it was the first time they had seen me. And for me, it was some of the guys the first time I saw them," Vogelsong said. "So that changes the game a little bit when you haven't seen somebody before live."
Now that they have, Vogelsong says it really doesn't matter much, either way.
That was August. This is October.
"I think the regular-season game doesn't mean too much," he said. "You've got to go out and make pitches and do your job and come out on the right end, hopefully."