SAN FRANCISCO -- After departing the Giants' 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, starter Ryan Vogelsong said he returned to the clubhouse, where he found fellow right-hander Tim Hudson, and remarked to Hudson: "Man, this game will just drive you nuts."
Vogelsong's last time on the mound, last week in Colorado, he'd felt his stuff, other than a spotty changeup, was "pretty solid." Yet he allowed four home runs and a career-high-tying eight earned runs in a lopsided loss. Wednesday night, he said, he was "all over the place" from pitch one. But he exited a 0-0 game in the seventh having allowed just two hits, keeping the Giants in a game that they broke open in the bottom of the inning.
"There's nights you go out there and feel like your stuff's really good, and you're commanding the ball and you get knocked around," Vogelsong said. "Then you have a night like tonight, where you're grinding from the first pitch, and you get your results. That's what makes this game so great. But at the same time, it drives you nuts."
For just the fifth time in his career, Vogelsong issued as many as five walks in a start. He issued three of those in the first two innings, over which he threw 43 pitches. He loaded the bases on two walks and a single in the second inning and went to a three-ball count against opposing starter Josh Collmenter before getting Collmenter to ground out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, avoiding a potentially disastrous inning.
During the Collmenter at-bat, new long reliever Tim Lincecum actually jogged down to the bullpen to start warming up. Vogelsong retired Collmenter before Lincecum threw a pitch -- but he said that while he noticed the activity, it didn't help snap him into shape.
"I don't think it turned around," Vogelsong said. "I didn't really figure out anything. Just was able to make some pitches when I needed to really.
"It was a grind. That's about the only way I can put it."
Still, beginning with the Collmenter at-bat, Vogelsong retired 14 of 15 hitters, recovering enough to last into the seventh. After a one-out double by Jake Lamb and a two-out walk to Didi Gregorius, manager Bruce Bochy took Vogelsong out with pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco coming up. Jean Machi entered and got Pacheco to ground out to end the inning.
As a result, Vogelsong wasn't in line for the win when the Giants scored four times in the bottom of the seventh. But the right-hander said Bochy had asked him how he felt before signaling for Machi, and, "With how I wasn't commanding the ball, that was the way to go at that point."
"He had a hard time getting his rhythm there the first two innings, which sometimes will happen," Bochy said. "But what a great job he did to regroup and find himself out there and clean up the delivery -- was hitting his spots and ended up pitching a great game."
Vogelsong argued that he didn't actually correct anything, that he was "just trying to find my way pretty much the whole time." But he did enough to show, and sounded confident afterward in saying, that his outing in Colorado was more a Coors Field-fueled aberration than anything. Vogelsong had allowed just five home runs in all of August before giving up four in the Colorado game alone, but he said it was "easier to shrug one off when it's in Coors Field and it's warm like it was, because you know the ball's going to fly."
"I'm kind of in between right now," he said of his outing Wednesday. "I'm extremely happy I didn't give up any runs. But I'm sitting here telling myself, well, I've got a lot of work to do before I see them again Monday."
The fact remains, though, that Vogelsong gave the Giants what they needed in what ended up being a tight duel with Collmenter. The Diamondbacks' tomahawk-throwing right-hander didn't allow a run in six innings, scattering three singles, and it was only after he exited and Arizona went to its bullpen in the seventh that the Giants broke through. Had Vogelsong allowed a run to score in the second, this game might have followed a different script.
Instead, Vogelsong continued a run of success for the Giants' rotation at home. After his outing and Yusmeiro Petit's complete game Tuesday night, Giatns starters in their last nine home games have combined for a 0.95 ERA in 66 1/3 innings, with 66 strikeouts and 12 walks (nearly half of which came from Vogelsong on Wednesday).
"He wasn't at his best today," said left fielder Gregor Blanco. "But he still pulled it out."
"I think it was one of those effectively wild deals," Vogelsong said with a bemused look on his face. "Yeah."
Blanco broke the scoreless tie in the seventh when he drove in Hunter Pence from first base with a double down the right-field line. Pence had led off the inning with a walk and Blanco had gone up trying to bunt -- only he pulled back on a 1-1 pitch that was called a borderline outside strike and so had the bunt sign taken off.
Blanco clearly didn't like the call by home plate umpire Brian Gorman, and actually then fouled a pitch off Gorman's mask before yanking a sharp ground ball just inside the first-base bag that ricocheted off the short wall near the visiting bullpen, giving Pence enough time to score standing up.
"After he called that (second) strike, I was just like, OK, just get it done," Blanco said. "I just tried to move him to second base no matter what. And that double came, which was better than what I thought, so it was good."
Blanco is one of several Giants who have gone on an offensive roll during the last month. He's 22-for-58 (.379) over his last 19 games. He has also been candid about the fact that Angel Pagan's return -- and Blanco's subsequent return to left field and a lower position in the batting order -- has helped by allowing Blanco not to put more pressure on himself to fill Pagan's shoes as a sparkplug and table-setter.
"I've been having a lot of fun and relaxing a lot," Blanco said. "So it's good."
Blanco's RBI double was all the scoring the Giants would need, but they added three more runs in the seventh and one in the eighth anyway. Matt Duffy contributed a pinch-hit RBI double to score Blanco, moved to third on a wild pitch that brought in Brandon Crawford from third and then scored himself on Angel Pagan's sacrifice fly.
Duffy hasn't played as much as some of the Giants' other rookies -- Andrew Susac and Joe Panik in particular -- but came up with a clutch at-bat to help the Giants' balanced offense Wednesday night. Every starting position player had a hit with the exception of Panik, who had five of them Tuesday. Panik, though, did have a solid defensive game, turning a double play in the first inning and ranging up the middle in the sixth for a nice backhand and spinning throw to retire Miguel Montero.
"The kids have done a really nice job," Bochy said. Talking specifically about Duffy, he added: "Really what you're looking at is the quality of the at-bat. The first two pitches he took there, did a great job laying off those, (and) then he got a pitch he could handle and hit it well."
Speaking of Lincecum, Bochy was asked about him before the game and said the right-hander is basically in full reliever mode right now. That is, Lincecum isn't doing a lot of extra side work and bullpen sessions trying to regain his form as a starter. Rather, he's doing an amount of work that allows him to still be a day-to-day option in relief -- a good indication that Petit's spot in the rotation is pretty secure at the moment.
The Dodgers won Wednesday night, so they remain 2 1/2 games up in the N.L. West. Still, with their win, the Giants improved to 17-8 since Aug. 13, which is the second-best winning percentage in the majors over that span behind the red-hot Los Angeles Angels. The Giants are also the fourth N.L. team to reach 80 wins, joining the Dodgers (83), the Nationals (82) and the Cardinals (80).
An announced crowd of 41,293 was on hand at AT&T Park for this one, pushing the Giants' season attendance past the 3-million mark. The Giants announced it's the fifth consecutive season that they've eclipsed 3 million in attendance, and the 13th overall in their 15 years at AT&T Park.
The Giants are riding a season-long eight-game winning streak at home, their longest such streak at AT&T Park since May 2011. They'll try to make it nine in the series finale Thursday afternoon, with right-hander Jake Peavy (4-4, 2.36) taking the mound against Diamondbacks right-hander Randall Delgado (3-3, 5.40). First pitch at 12:45 p.m.