PITTSBURGH -- Few pitchers could have as big a beef with the All-Star game selection process as Ryan Vogelsong, but he ran up against one of them Saturday.
Vogelsong put forth another quality start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but James McDonald was better, striking out 10 while leading the Pirates to a 3-1 victory over a Giants team that has dropped four of five on the current trip.
"We really didn't do too much against him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We got a good start from Vogelsong, but we ran into one of the better-pitched games we've seen.
"(McDonald) threw well, there's no getting around it. We had a couple guys with rough days at the plate."
Both pitchers seemed to get better after an early 27-minute rain delay, but Vogelsong was ultimately undone by a collection of extra-base hits. The Pirates scored on an RBI double in the third, a solo homer in the fourth and another RBI double in the sixth. The six extra-base hits allowed by Vogelsong tied a career high.
"I just made too many mistakes to a team that's swinging the bats well right now," he said. "(McDonald) is having a good season and throwing the ball well, so you know going in that it's going to be a tough game. He pitched a little better than me today."
McDonald allowed only four hits in seven innings. The Giants got on the board in the sixth when Ryan Theriot brought home Gregor Blanco with a two-out single, but they never again seriously
"He's got a sneaky fastball, and his breaking pitches were great," Blanco said. "It was really hard to lay off them."
McDonald lowered his ERA to 2.37, a smidgen behind Vogelsong (2.36). The only National League pitcher with a lower ERA than Vogelsong's in the first half is Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto (2.35), who pitches Sunday. The three right-handers have something else in common other than microscopic ERAs: All three were left off the National League All-Star team.
"You can look at a lot of clubs with pitchers who are throwing well -- you can't take them all," said Bochy, who managed in last year's All-Star game. "It's a tough job, I've been there."
It has been 11 years since the National League ERA leader at the break didn't make the All-Star team, but Vogelsong wasn't complaining about his fate. He's thrilled with a first half that included a 7-4 record (the Giants have just four total runs in his four losses) and 15 quality starts. After being sidelined with back problems for much of the spring, Vogelsong has pitched at least six innings in all 16 of his starts.
"There were times in the spring where I didn't know how it would be," Vogelsong said of his back. "But I don't think about it. Really, after the first two starts, I got that out of the way. I had a couple of starts under my belt and realized that I'd be OK.
"That was pretty much the end of it."
Vogelsong, 34, said he would continue to do more strenuous core exercises to make sure his back doesn't flare up again, and he's eager to build off his strong first half.
"I don't feel like I need time off," he said. "I still feel strong. I feel like I've been in a pretty good rhythm and tempo. I don't think the break will change that for me."
Despite Lincecum's rough first half, Bochy said there was no consideration given to skipping a start so he could throw extra bullpen sessions.
"Timmy is throwing well in his 'pens," Bochy said. "Those are not what he needs right now. He's been throwing better. This is still our guy. We think he's going to have a better second half."
Asked if keeping Lincecum so high in the rotation could be viewed as a sign of support given Lincecum's 6.08 ERA, Bochy said that wasn't the intention.
"But if that's how he wants to take it, that's great," Bochy said.
Lincecum will make his final start of the first half Sunday.
Cabrera needs two hits in Sunday's series finale to tie Rich Aurilia's San Francisco-era club record for most hits (120) before the All-Star break.
Giants (Tim Lincecum 3-9) at Pittsburgh (A.J. Burnett 9-2), 10:35 a.m. CSNBA