Here is a link to my Tuesday Giants column. The full text runs below:
This could be serious, this 4-1 loss to the Washington Nationals. Because the Giants didn’t put away the Nationals on Monday, they have a big problem. The Nationals are alive and surging — maybe. And now so many things are unclear, things that were crystal clear a few days ago.
It’s like this. The Giants got beat because Madison Bumgarner made a crummy play, so unBumlike. And the Nationals took advantage and they took Game 3 and now they are down two games to one. Which means the Nationals finally are in this series as opposed to being silent spectators. And now things get dangerous for the Giants.
For today’s game — Game 4 — the Nationals are pitching Gio Gonzalez. A lefty. That last fact is huge. The Giants hit righties better than they hit lefties. You can’t say the Giants crush anyone — they’ve scored six runs in three games in this Division Series.
But, they have been bad against lefties, and that gives the advantage to Washington in Game 4. Not that Gonzalez is Sandy Koufax. His record this season was a so-so 10-10, although he won four of his last five starts. But his leftiness could be a series-changer for the Giants.
Nationals manager Matt Williams talked about starting Gonzalez: “It may change their lineup a little bit. It may not be so lefty heavy. We’ll see how that plays. But, he’s been really good.
“He’s been going deep in games and using all of his pitches for strikes when he wants to.”
Let’s say the Nationals win Game 4. I am not saying they will win Game 4. I don’t have the slightest idea. But, let’s say they do win it. Believe me, they have a chance. Well, if they win, the series is tied and it goes back to the Nationals’ yard for the final game, for a heart-hammering, one-game series decider. Exactly what the Giants want to avoid.
Who is in charge of the Giants avoiding that game?
Ryan Vogelsong, that’s who. With Vogelsong doubt and risk and worry just entered the room. I have nothing against Vogelsong as a person. He’s a nice guy with a great name. But with him you never know.
One of the Vogelsongs — call him Vogey-A — is a precision pitcher with above-average stuff and an imposing will.
But, another Vogelsong lurks — call him Vogey-B. This alternate Vogelsong gets his brains beat out in three innings, give or take. Vogey-B can’t find the strike zone and gives up bombs and, way too soon, Bruce Bochy has to make that long awkward head-bobbing walk of his to the mound where he sticks out his big paw and Vogelsong surrenders the ball and trudges head down to the dugout.
Lately, Vogey-B has been in the ascendancy. You might say he’s been ascendant a long time. Vogelsong’s regular-season record was a dreary 8-13. He had an earned run average of 4.00. In his last 10 games his record was 1-5.
Those grim statistics do not suggest a man ready to bring the Giants home. Even Vogey-A is mostly a five-inning pitcher and that means Vogelsong, in the best of times, depletes the bullpen. He has not pitched since Sept. 26, a loss to San Diego.
Here is Hunter Pence on Vogelsong: “He’s a competitor. He has that hard-nosed pitcher mentality, he’s a leader. He’s pitched in a lot of big games and it’s a lot of fun to play behind him, so looking forward to playing out there with him.”
Pence was talking about Vogey-A.
After Monday’s game, Vogelsong came to the interview room. He seemed confident, didn’t come off like a clubhouse Hamlet consumed with indecision and self-doubt. He said, sure, he hasn’t pitched lately but he’s been practicing hard.
“Just kind of back to basics a little bit, really,” he said. “Doing some drill work, doing some stuff in the outfield on the flat ground. Threw a couple bullpens and really just trying to clean up some things that got away from me a little bit at the end of the season, and just hoping we weren’t going to get to a Game 4.”
Does that summary of his prep work give you confidence in him as a shutdown stopper?
He continued: “You know, I’ve had, over the last — actually over my entire career — I’ve had times where I’ve gotten out of whack and things have gone awry, and I’ve found a way to get back in the right path.”
He hopes to get back in whack.
When did Bochy inform him he had Game 4?
“I was probably going to start this game if we got to it. I’ve been prepared for this more than just a couple hours here.”
And now to the main point. When did he regain his pitching form?
“Even at the end of the season, I would be rolling along in the game and then just kind of lose it. So, I mean, it’s there. Just need to be more focused at times and more concentrated on making a good pitch.”
Above all else, Vogelsong brings guts to the Giants — brings that something between the legs we’ve heard tell about lately. To be fair, the Nationals showed an abundance of guts coming to the Giants’ place and winning a sudden-death elimination game. In honor of that, let’s give Williams, the former Giant, the last word.
“We find ourselves in the same position. If we lose (Tuesday), then it’s all over. We have to do things correctly like we did today. We know we have to score some runs.”
Whether the Nationals score sufficient runs is strictly up to Vogelsong. This is not Bumgarner’s game or Jake Peavy’s game or Tim Hudson’s game. This is Vogelsong’s game, his job to close out the Nationals, close them out in San Francisco.
So much depends on Vogey-A showing up tonight.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@press democrat.com.