Ryan Vogelsong was a long shot to be a Giant this season. Now he's looking like a potential National League All-Star.
"It's one of the best stories I've seen since I've been in the game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the Giants' 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon.
The story keeps getting better, and the appreciation from the stands keeps getting louder. Vogelsong received the ovation of his life as he walked off the mound after pitching eight spectacular innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, he received an even stronger outpouring from the standing, sellout crowd. Vogelsong put down a sacrifice bunt, which preceded Andres Torres' tiebreaking single as the Giants took two of three from Colorado and leapt back into first place in the N.L. West.
"The fans are great here. They know the game," Vogelsong said. "They know how important it is.
"This is the best thing you could ever experience. I wish everybody could experience what I'm going through right now. It's awesome."
It is awesome for any pitcher to allow just three earned runs over a six-start span, as Vogelsong has done while posting a 0.69 ERA. It's even better when you're a 33-year-old minor league free agent who hadn't pitched in the big leagues for four seasons before cracking the roster in mid-April.
It might seem obvious, but Bochy was ready to confirm it: Whenever Barry Zito is ready to return, Vogelsong will remain in the rotation.
"We're starting to talk about it," Bochy acknowledged. "There's a point we'll have to figure out what we'll have to do. It's obvious Vogey isn't going anywhere. He'll go every fifth day. We might have to get creative here."
Zito will begin his minor league rehab assignment for Single-A San Jose on Monday, when he is expected to throw 85 pitches. He can remain in the minors for a maximum of 30 days. The Giants will need a starter at the end of June, either to pitch during a June 28 doubleheader at Wrigley Field or in the ensuing days. A lot can happen in three weeks.
But Vogelsong (4-1) keeps sustaining his success. With all his pitches snapping across the plate, he held the Rockies to four hits in eight innings, issued just one walk and struck out seven -- including three whiffs of reigning N.L. batting champ Carlos Gonzalez, who looked overmatched each time.
Vogelsong has a 1.68 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) and has a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The stats confirm what the eye beholds. Everything about his success looks to be sustainable.
"He wanted to be a Giant, and that was special to us," said Bochy, who will manage the N.L. All-Star squad and will make final appointments to the roster. "He's taking full advantage. He's pitching as well as anybody in the league, really."
And Vogelsong is appreciative.
"Any experience I had in the big leagues before this was as a long man, pitching when we were blowing a team out or getting blown out -- usually getting blown out," said Vogelsong, who pitched parts of five seasons with Pittsburgh. "So to be on a team like this and be counted on to win games, it's a great feeling."
The Giants are 6-2 in Vogelsong's starts, but they needed a couple of late rallies to make a winner of him after he allowed a home run to Chris Iannetta in the fifth.
Miguel Tejada broke up right-hander Jason Hammel's no-hit bid with his clean, two-out single in the sixth after Torres walked, and Freddy Sanchez followed with a tying single up the middle.
The Giants pushed ahead in the eighth. After pinch hitter Pat Burrell drew a leadoff walk, Bochy pulled back rookie Conor Gillaspie from the on-deck circle and had Vogelsong step to the plate.
"Vogey handles the bat as well as anybody, really," said Bochy, who didn't hesitate to let him face reliever Matt Lindstrom's upper-90s heat. "That's not an easy task against a guy throwing that hard. He kept his nose in there."
Vogelsong's bunt dribbled down the first-base line, advancing pinch runner Manny Burriss. Torres came close to swinging on a 2-2 pitch that bounced to the screen, moving Burriss to third, but he received another life. He took advantage by lining the next pitch into left-center field.
When told of Bochy's comments regarding his rotation spot, Vogelsong did not break into a dance. He knows a major league job is a precious thing. He won't celebrate at someone else's expense.
"Well, let's not talk about that," Vogelsong said.
The cheers say it all.
For more on the Giants, see Andrew Baggarly's Extra Baggs blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs.