SAN FRANCISCO – Apart from the 69 games he missed before returning to the Giants' rotation Friday, the thing that had most frustrated Ryan Vogelsong about his fractured little finger was that it occurred on a night he finally felt like himself again.
Instead of building on the five shutout innings he threw against the Washington Nationals on May 20, after which his ERA still stood at 7.19, Vogelsong would have to wait nearly three months to find out if he really had turned the page on his dismal first eight starts.
Early returns Friday were encouraging. Vogelsong held the Baltimore Orioles, the fourth-highest scoring team in baseball, to two runs over six innings, keeping the Giants in the game before their feeble offense forced extra innings against Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the ninth to get Vogelsong off the hook for a tough-luck loss.
That went instead to Javier Lopez, who gave up a two-out, two-run double to Chris Davis in the 10th and a single to Matt Wieters that scored Davis, giving the Orioles a 5-2 win on the night the Giants welcomed back one of the key members of their rotation the past two seasons.
After throwing his first pitch Friday at 89 mph for a called strike, Vogelsong appeared to lose some velocity in the middle innings, with his fastball hovering in the mid-80s. Still, he held the Orioles hitless over his final three innings, getting Brian Roberts to fly out to center on his 103rd and final pitch to record just his second quality start of the year.
He walked off the mound trailing 2-0, though, with Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman in the midst of retiring 14 hitters in a row, a run that began with his evisceration of a would-be rally in the second. Hunter Pence led off with a single and Pablo Sandoval walked, but Roger Kieschnick, Gregor Blanco and Vogelsong all went down swinging against Tillman, who struck out a career-high nine.
Tillman didn't allow another runner until Brandon Belt hit a 3-2 fastball for his second home run in as many days with two outs in the sixth. It continued a torrid month for Belt, who is 11-for-24 in August and remains the only Giant to homer at home since July 20.
Belt also singled leading off the ninth against Johnson, who walked Posey before Pence bounced an RBI single back up the middle to tie the score 2-2, still with nobody out. But Sandoval hit into a fielder's choice, Kieschnick struck out and Blanco popped out to send the game into extra innings.
Vogelsong got a no-decision in his return despite recording the 12th quality start by a Giants rotation member in their last 14 games. The starters have a combined ERA of 2.12 in that span – but with the offense's struggles, it has equated to a 5-9 record.
Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead in the first with a two-out single to drive in Manny Machado, who had doubled off the bricks in right field, and J.J. Hardy hammered a hanging curveball from Vogelsong for his 20th home run leading off the second.
The latter was a problem for Vogelsong before the injury – Hardy's was the 12th homer Vogelsong has allowed in 52 1/3 innings, after he surrendered just 17 all of last season. From there, though, Vogelsong kept a Baltimore lineup that leads the majors in homers in the park, and Jose Mijares and Sandy Rosario got the Giants to the ninth trailing by one.
Et cetera – The Giants optioned reliever Jean Machi to Triple-A Fresno to open a roster spot for Vogelsong. Machi pitched in seven games in his most recent stint with the Giants after being recalled July 21, allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. Guillermo Moscoso can fill the role of a right-handed middle reliever and, as a recent starter, gives the Giants an option for long relief.
Sandoval was working on his swing with hitting coach Hensley Meulens under the watch of manager Bruce Bochy before the game. Bochy said Sandoval, who began Friday 3-for-31 in his previous eight games, has been over-striding and was working to "quiet things down."