Righty tosses 5 2/3 shutout innings to lead Giants to commanding Series lead
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ROIT -- This was something Ryan Vogelsong had wanted for 30 years, since he was a Pennsylvania kid with a dream. He wasn't about to let a Triple Crown winner or anyone else ruin it.
And so it was that Vogelsong reached back for the fastball catcher Buster Posey wanted, up and in, and watched the mighty Miguel Cabrera loft a harmless popup to shortstop Brandon Crawford to end the fifth inning.
As Vogelsong, the 35-year-old right-hander with the crazy-quilt career, exhaled, the big crowd at Comerica Park fell silent. The hometown fans seemed to sense that another opportunity like this -- two runs down, bases loaded, most dangerous hitter alive at the plate -- would not come again.
"This is my first World Series," Vogelsong said, having produced 17 of the 27 outs that brought the Giants a 2-0 Game 3 victory on Saturday night. "I've been waiting for this since I was 5 years old. I wasn't going to go down without a fight, that's for sure."
One victory away from a sweep and their second World Series crown in three years, San Francisco was relatively subdued in the afterglow. The Giants will celebrate when it's time. As closer Sergio Romo so aptly put it, when you've endured six elimination games in a postseason, as they have, you take nothing for granted.
What manager Bruce Bochy and his team would celebrate, verbally if not in song, was the inner strength of Vogelsong.
"Vogey, what a gutty effort," Bochy said. "He got in some jams there, kept his poise out there and continued to make pitches. It starts with our starter, who just did a tremendous job."
This three-man shutout followed a Game 2 blanking of the Tigers in San Francisco by Madison Bumgarner and the bullpen, and a brilliant Game 1 effort by Barry Zito.
Vogelsong, who revived his career with an All-Star season in 2011, has delivered four essential performances during this remarkable October run. His 1.09 ERA the lowest by a starter with at least 24 postseason innings since Orel Hershiser's 1.05 in 42 2/3 innings for the 1988 Dodgers.
Vogelsong kept his team, down 2-0 in the best-of-five National League Division Series, in Game 3 with five strong innings in Cincinnati. Winning that one, 2-1, the Giants went on to eliminate the stunned Reds.
Facing St. Louis in the NL Championship Series after losing the opener, it was Vogelsong outdueling Chris Carpenter in Game 2 in San Francisco and then again in Game 6. This set up Matt Cain's Game 7 triumph and the ticket to the Fall Classic.
In those three pivotal games, Vogelsong yielded just three runs in 19 innings on 11 hits, striking out 18.
Vogelsong wasn't as crisp or as dominant in his first World Series start, but he managed to impose his will against Cabrera and Co. in leaving six runners stranded across 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He focused on putting the baseball where Posey requested it, with conviction.
"I didn't think my stuff was as good as it was in the NLCS," Vogelsong said. "I really just tried to hit Buster's glove as many times as I could.
"I didn't think I was as sharp as I wanted to be, but when the guys are playing defense like that behind you, it encourages you to try to get guys to hit the ball in play. I definitely wasn't happy with four walks."
Crawford, emerging under the brightest of lights as one of the best in the game, was the acrobatic middle man on double plays ending the first and third innings.
He also made a sensational sprawling stab to rob Cabrera leading off the eighth against Tim Lincecum, who returned the favor by striking out Andy Dirks after Crawford's first error in 19 games.
"He's an inspirational story, for sure," Crawford said of Vogelsong. "Just getting back to play for us last year and pitching so well was something, and now he's winning these postseason games for us. Being able to do what he's done tells you what kind of competitor he is."
Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, buried his starter's ego to go to the bullpen. He offered up another masterful job in relief of Vogelsong in Game 3.
Their career paths couldn't be much different. When he ruled the landscape, Lincecum never could have imagined going 2 1/3 hitless innings in relief to help earn a victory for Vogelsong. But Lincecum was beaming in the afterglow.
"I think we all have an appreciation for what everybody has been through to get to this level," Lincecum said. "It's never easy for anybody, and everybody's grind has been a little bit different. With that, we have a definite appreciation for each other, and respect.
"With Ryan, we know what he's been through and the kind of person he is -- and he's that kind of guy that's just going to leave it out there on the field, give you everything he's got, give you the shirt off his back if he has to. That just speaks a lot about him, and I'm just fortunate to be his teammate."
Cain gets the ball on Sunday night with a chance to close the show.
"I think they're feeding off each other," Posey said about San Francisco's pitchers. "They're executing pitches. You don't go into a game thinking about a shutout. You go inning to inning, pitch to pitch, batter to batter."
One more happy ending, and the Giants are champions again.