SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong had just completed his first season as a full-time major-league starting pitcher when he went to Venezuela in late 2004 to play winter ball. The season had not gone particularly well. In 31 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates, 26 of them starts, Vogelsong had gone 6-13 with a 6.50 ERA.
It was in the wake of these struggles that Guillermo Quiroz met Vogelsong in Venezuela and formed a "concept of him" that the Giants' backup catcher said still holds true about Vogelsong nearly nine years later.
"He just wanted to work," Quiroz said Monday. "He wanted to get better."
It took years, but Vogelsong did just that, becoming an All-Star for the Giants in 2011 in his age 33 season and a key part of their World Series run last year. Now, facing another type of recovery after fracturing his pitching hand in two places in the Giants' 8-0 win over the Nationals on Monday night, it's that drive that figures to serve Vogelsong well as he navigates a healing and recovery process that manager Bruce Bochy estimated will be at least four to six weeks.
The details of Vogelsong's injury and immediate reaction can be found here on the blog. Vogelsong probably didn't have to talk to reporters after the latest setback in what has already been a frustrating season for him, but he did, wearing a cast that covered most of his right forearm and vowing to return to the mound as soon as possible.
Bochy said Vogelsong was waiting to congratulate the rest of the team in the clubhouse after the game, in which the Giants rapped out a season-high 17 hits while holding the Nationals to three -- and none after Vogelsong departed in the fifth. Catcher Buster Posey said that was an encouraging sign.
"You don't know how a guy's going to take something like that," Posey said. "He seems to be handling it pretty well. It's unfortunate. Vogey is a horse for us and probably had his best start of the year (Monday).
"He'll be all right. It'll take some time, but he's such a hard worker, I think his recovery time will be pretty good."
First baseman Brandon Belt said it was pretty apparent as soon as Vogelsong had to leave the game with trainer Dave Groeschner attending to his hand that the diagnosis wouldn't be good. "But this team seems to have people step up at the right times," he said.
"It was tough to see him go down," Belt said. "But he'll be back strong and ready to go."
* In terms of stepping up at the right time, that process started Monday night with the Giants' bullpen, which was pressed into action suddenly following Vogelsong's injury and didn't allow a hit in four innings.
Vogelsong came out of the game with two outs in the fifth and pinch hitter Nick Noonan grounded out, meaning Javier Lopez, the first man up, had very little time to warm up. Lopez, though, struck out the first batter he faced and three of four overall, including Nationals cleanup hitter Ryan Zimmerman to end the sixth.
Jean Machi, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt combined to finish the game, protecting a comfortable lead for a change. The Giants, who were outscored on their 1-5 road trip by a combined total of 52-30 and were shut out at Coors Field on Sunday, had six players with multiple hits, including four by Belt and three from Andres Torres.
"Really happy for Andres, who's struggling lately and goes out there and throws out a good game," Bochy said. "Brandon threw out some great at-bats. Really we got contributions from everybody.
"They're all a little down with what happened with Vogey. But it was a good win."
* Belt matched a career high with the four hits, including a solo home run in the fifth off Nationals reliever Craig Stammen, and scored four times. One came on a safety squeeze by Vogelsong in the fourth that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead.
"He made it easy on me," Belt said. "Sometimes as a runner on third base it's tough to kind of see the angle of the ball. He put it right where he needed to put it."
Belt hit a deep fly ball to center in his fifth at-bat but Denard Span tracked it down near the warning track. He received a standing ovation as he jogged back to the dugout.
* Marco Scutaro had a pair of singles and is now batting .480 (36-for-75) during his 18-game hitting streak. It's the longest active streak in the majors this season and it has the Giants' second baseman at .333 for the year. A month ago today, he was hitting .227.
* Matt Cain vs. Stephen Strasburg may have looked a lot better on a billboard last year, when Cain was 16-5 and Strasburg 15-6 before famously being shut down for precaution toward the end of the season.
Both aces are struggling so far in 2013 (Cain has a 5.43 ERA, Strasburg's is 2.83 but accompanies a 2-5 record), but this matchup still has star appeal, and the Giants could surely use an encouraging outing from Cain after seeing another of their rotation stalwarts lost for the next month and a half. First pitch at 7:15 p.m.