SAN FRANCISCO -- Part of the reason the Giants own the best record in baseball owes to their pitching depth, in particular the back end of the starting rotation.

On Saturday night, Ryan Vogelsong illustrated once again why the Giants aren't dependent upon any one of their starters as he won for the third time in five starts and lowered his ERA to 3.20 in a 2-1 decision over the Minnesota Twins at AT&T Park.

Vogelsong's stats are befitting a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, which is why manager Bruce Bochy is hesitant to refer to Tim Lincecum and Vogelsong as his Nos. 4 and 5 starters.

"You could see this coming," Bochy said of Vogelsong's torrid stretch the past six games. "His stuff has really picked up. His velocity, his command. He has really hit both sides of the plate very well, and his secondary pitches have been crisper."

The numbers back up Bochy's assertion that Lincecum and Vogelsong are more than hit-and-miss spots in the rotation.

The Giants are 7-3 in games started by Lincecum, just as they now are in Vogelsong's starts. That's almost half of the Giants' 31 victories so far this season.

Vogelsong improved his record to 3-2 but said he places far more emphasis on how often the Giants win in his starts.


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"More times than not, it means you're keeping your guys in the game," Vogelsong said of the Giants' 7-3 record in his starts. "As a starting pitcher, that's the first and foremost thing to do. Give them a chance to win. That's a stat that means a lot to me."

The Giants notched their 31st victory Saturday, which moved them ahead of the A's for the most in the majors. They also moved past the Detroit Tigers and A's for the best won-loss percentage.

The Giants aren't even one-third of the way through the season, but Bochy is pleased with the way his troops are playing.

"It means we're playing good baseball," Bochy said. "We've been hitting on all facets to this point. The pitching has really come around. ... We've been clicking."

Saturday offered a prime example. Strong pitching all the way around, solid defense and a few timely hits added up to the Giants' second straight victory over the Twins and fifth without a loss in interleague play this season.

For the second straight game, third baseman Pablo Sandoval delivered the big blow offensively.

He hit a solo home run -- his fourth in six games -- in the second inning and added a sacrifice fly in the sixth for the Giants' only scoring.

But he was relegated to second billing as Vogelsong held the opposition to one or no runs for the fifth time in six games.

He allowed the Twins three hits and one walk, striking out seven. That's not surprising, second baseman Brandon Hicks said, when you consider Vogelsong is throwing four pitches effectively every game of late.

"He's got a real good idea of how he wants to pitch hitters," Hicks said. "He's always going to give you an awesome effort. It's fun to play behind him."

Vogelsong said he is riding a wave of confidence, with an improved change-up and breaking ball and the re-emergence of his cutter as an effective pitch.

"I feel like when I'm out there, I can throw anything at any time," Vogelsong said. "That's a great feeling because it's not always like that. The last couple games, it's been that way."

Sergio Romo gave up a leadoff homer to Josmil Pinto in the ninth but retired the next three batters for his 16th save.

  • Matt Cain will be held out of his regularly scheduled start Monday, Bochy said, because of a right hamstring strain. Cain injured his hamstring Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies and left the game after pitching three scoreless innings.

    Yusmeiro Petit will start against the Cubs on Monday, Bochy said. Petit already has made three spot starts this season, including two for Cain when he was out with a cut finger.

  • Right fielder Hunter Pence's 10-game hitting streak ended. He went 0 for 2 with two walks.

  • Left-handed relief specialist Javier Lopez pitched in 12 games through April 28, but he appeared in only six the past four weeks or so.

    Bochy said some of that had to do with Lopez's left arm being a little "cranky."

    "It was never a situation where he couldn't pitch," Bochy said. "I was trying to back off on him on purpose."

  • First baseman Brandon Belt had the cast removed from his left hand, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He reportedly will wear a removable cast for the next 2½ weeks until the pins are removed.

    Belt suffered a broken left thumb when he got hit by a pitch in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 9. He is expected to miss six weeks.

    SUNDAY'S GAME

    Minnesota (Ricky Nolasco 2-4) at Giants (Madison Bumgarner 5-3), 1:05 p.m. CSNBA