Matched up against the Los Angeles Dodgers ace left hander Clayton Kershaw (5-4), Ryan Vogelsong (7-3) knew he would have to be at the top of his game Tuesday night. Kershaw, who has been a Giant slayer over his young career, has had a ton of success at AT&T Park, especially over the last year and a half.
With seven shutout innings, striking out three and walking only one, Vogelsong was tough as nails when it mattered most, out dueling the reigning Cy Young award winner 2-0, assuring the Giants a series win against their division rival.
In the first, second, and seventh innings, the Dodgers had a runner in scoring position, but none of them advanced beyond second base as a determined Vogelsong turned it up a notch each time.
The key spot in the game came in seventh inning as the Dodgers were looking to break through with their first runs of the series.
After Jerry Hairston reached on a one out single, Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a sharp ground ball up the middle. Ranging far to his left, shortstop Joaquin Arias just snagged Gwynn’s grounder but was unable to accurately flip the ball to Ryan Theriot waiting at second base. Hairston slid in safely and the Dodgers were in business with two on and only one out.
As the Dodgers A.J. Ellis strolled to the plate as the go ahead run, the 121st consecutive sellout crowd at AT&T Park collectively voiced their support for Vogelsong . Falling behind in the count, Vogelsong dug down and threw two fastballs by Ellis, and then got pinch hitter James Loney to pop out to center field to end the threat.
The inning would be Vogelsong’s last, but the Dodgers would not threaten again behind a perfect eighth from Jeremy Affeldt (0-1), and a solid ninth from Santiago Casilla (1-2), as the Giants shutout the Dodgers for the second consecutive night to move within one game of first place.
The consistent Vogelsong has now gone at least seven innings in 10 of his 14 starts this year, and has lasted at least six in all 14.
Kershaw also pitched well, but wasn’t as sharp as Giant fans have grown accustomed to. Surrendering eight hits over six innings, it was the fourth inning that did him in.
After Melky Cabrera led off the inning with a towering home run to the left field bleachers, Buster Posey singled, and then Pagan reached on a fielder’s choice. After stealing second, with Pablo Sandoval at the plate, Pagan scored the Giants second run on a missed sign and little luck.
On a 1-0 count, Kershaw threw Sandoval a 94 mph fastball that he laced into right field. Pagan, rounding third base ran right through a Tim Flannery stop sign and dashed for the plate.
The Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier, who has a very strong arm, came up with the ball and made a very weak through into the infield allowing Pagan to score easily.
While the Giants squandered the opportunity to score more in the inning after a Brandon Belt double, two runs were plenty tonight.
Over the last two nights the Giants pitching staff has combined to shut out the Dodgers in consecutive games, which hasn’t at home since August of 1987.
After the game Vogelsong was asked about his role in the back to back shutouts, and in typical Vogelsong fashion, deferred the credit elsewhere.
“I think Z (Zito) threw the ball really well last night, but tonight it was Buster and our defense. I thought I threw the ball pretty good but our defense made a lot of really good plays, and Buster called a great game.”
Vogelsong added, “he (Buster) really got me through it tonight, because I was kind of searching for it.a little bit, so tonight goes with him”
With the win the Giants improve to 23-14 at home this year, with a chance to move into first place with a win and a series sweep tomorrow afternoon.
The Giants have none other than Tim Lincecum (2-8) on the mound tomorrow as he takes on Chad Billingsley (4-6) in an afternoon matchup of two struggling right handers who are both looking to regain their past form.