SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy has shown faith in Pablo Sandoval, opting not to drop Sandoval out of the third spot in the order despite the third baseman’s .164 average going into Wednesday. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly did not show the same faith in Sandoval’s hitting abilities right now when he walked Hunter Pence to get to Sandoval with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game on Wednesday night.
With a swing, Sandoval rewarded one manager’s strategy and foiled the other. It wasn’t his first swing -- Sandoval looked terrible waving at a sinker away from J.P. Howell for strike one. On the next pitch, though, Sandoval waited just long enough on a changeup and poked it into center field for an RBI single that ultimately gave the Giants a 2-1 win.
It was Sandoval’s second hit of the night -- he also singled ahead of Buster Posey’s RBI single in the third -- and gave him two multi-hit games in his last three. The Giants would love to see Sandoval get the bat going -- Bochy has maintained that Sandoval’s been the victim of some bad luck on hard-hit balls, but a .186 average isn’t what they have in mind from their No. 3 hitter.
"He put the ball in play; good things happen when you do that," Bochy said. "Hits like that can get a guy going. I’ve said that I think he has hit the ball better than the numbers are showing, he’s had some tough luck here, but that’s what wins games for you is hits like that."
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Sandoval said he didn’t take it personally when he saw the Dodgers walk Pence -- Pence is hitting .183 but had three hits Tuesday -- and that after Howell’s first pitch he took a second to regroup from a bad swing.
"After that I just told myself, calm down, get a pitch, try to play pepper to the middle of the field (because) you’ve got a big hole up there," Sandoval said.
Sandoval didn’t make great contact but the ball floated into center, with Joaquin Arias scoring easily from second base. Sandoval said his bat actually broke on the swing and hit him on the top of the right hand, which he had wrapped after the game. Bochy said Sandoval had "a knuckle or something," but Sandoval said he intends to play Thursday.
"It’s nothing serious," he said.
Nor did he flinch when asked about his slow start with the bat. Asked if he’s getting at all frustrated, Sandoval scoffed and said: "Why? It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game. So try to do the best that I can, stay humble out there and try to do the best that I can."
* Ryan Vogelsong had his best start of the spring by pitching into the seventh inning and allowing just one run on four hits. The right-hander actually faced the minimum number of batters through five innings -- though the Dodgers put a runner on in each of the first three, he was erased on the basepaths -- and nearly got through six unscathed before he walked opposing pitcher Paul Maholm with two outs and paid for it on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon.
For most of the night, though, it was Vogelsong as you’ve come to know him when he’s good. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 22 batters and bore through a Dodgers lineup that didn’t manage an extra-base hit until Gordon’s triple.
"I think more than anything he stayed consistent with his delivery from the first inning," Bochy said. "(Last start) against Arizona, he came out throwing very well and then got out of sync there. Tonight he stayed in sync throughout the game."
Vogelsong agreed that after a shaky beginning to that start against the Diamondbacks, the last couple innings helped him "feel what I wanted to feel" going into this week. As for what specifically was better Wednesday night, Vogelsong said: "Well just command, you know? I was kind of missing pitches that I usually make, and tonight I was able to make those pitches and keep them off-balance a little bit."
Vogelsong said he has worked hard in side sessions to develop that consistency with his mechanics. After not getting out of the sixth inning in either of his first two outings, he needed just 56 pitches to complete five innings Wednesday and helped give the bullpen at least a partial breather after Tuesday night’s marathon.
"Just finally got the results that I’ve been looking for," Vogelsong said. "It just kind of all came together tonight for me."
* Vogelsong still needed a big assist from Jean Machi after hitting Hanley Ramirez and allowing a single by Adrian Gonzalez to start the seventh. Machi came on to strike out Matt Kemp, then after allowing a single by Andre Ethier he got a comebacker from Juan Uribe to start a 1-2-3 double play and end the inning.
"He saved our skin there," Bochy said of Machi.
It extended an excellent early run by the Giants’ bullpen, which has allowed two earned runs with 24 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings during this 10-game homestand. After Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez combined for a scoreless eighth Wednesday, Sergio Romo got his fourth save with strikeouts of Gonzalez and Kemp to end it.
The win went to Machi, who pumped his fists emphatically after starting the double play in the seventh. He’s now 3-0 on the season, having allowed one run in seven innings over eight appearances.
Said Romo: "The guy has pitched in pretty much every situation we’ve thrown at him and he’s done well. He’s a very emotional guy and it’s hard to not root for a man like him, because he cares so much. But it’s also fun watching that little kid come out of him every now and then as well."
* Ramirez, the Dodgers shortstop, left the game after Vogelsong’s two-seam fastball hit him on the left hand in the seventh. The scene didn’t look good -- Ramirez threw off his helmet in frustration and grabbed his hand in pain while being attended by a trainer -- but it was announced during the game that X-rays on the hand came back negative.
Vogelsong said he was trying to go inside with the two-seamer and it ran too much. "It’s unfortunate to see it happen," he said. "But at the same time, I’ve got to be able to throw the ball inside."
* It’s early, but it already looks like the Giants’ recent penchant for playing close games isn’t going away this season. They’ve already played eight one-run games, with this win giving them a 5-3 record.
"I think we’d like to have some ones that we could relax a little bit more on," Vogelsong said. "But a win’s a win. These kind of games, we’re kind of used to them. You take ’em any way you can get ’em."
* Bochy improved to 3-5 with the Giants in games played on his birthday. Up for debate: Whether Tuesday night’s game, which technically ended on Wednesday morning, should count toward that win total.
"My record’s not very good on my birthday," Bochy said. "I’ll take the two wins to improve that record."
* One more note -- Posey appeared to jam his right leg sliding into second on a double play in the sixth, but stayed in and finished the game. Bochy said he would check Posey later about his availability to catch Thursday’s series finale.
The Giants will go for the sweep Thursday afternoon behind Madison Bumgarner. The Dodgers counter with Hyun-Jin Ryu. First pitch scheduled for 12:45 p.m.