SUNDAY, JULY 29
No matter how often I pore over his numbers or watch him up close, it is still nearly impossible to believe that Ryan Vogelsong is one of the league's best pitchers. He's the Tim Duncan of NL pitchers—boring (unless you pitch him too far inside), but truly excellent. If Pittsburgh had this version of Vogelsong back in 2001...let's not think about it, because odds are he wouldn't be a Giant today (besides, I'm not here to talk about the past). Vogie took on Giant-killer Clayton Kershaw for the third time this season.
As was well-documented, Tim Lincecum and Kershaw dueled four times in 2011, and Kershaw won all four. He does not win his 2011 Cy Young award without San Francisco batting .191/.230/.217 against him—not misprints. Even with two losses to Vogelsong this year, he is 6-3, with a 1.45 ERA lifetime against SF—4-2, 0.79 at AT&T Park.
The game opened fittingly, with a fan yelling "Why wasn't that a strike on Ethier the other day?!" in response to a close pitch ruled a strike. I echoed his sentiment.
The second inning brought more levity when a Giants ballbabe was knocked on her tush bowling-pin style by the momentum of a foul Loney grounder she fielded. Then, Posey and Crawford turned a sweet K/CS double-play on Loney and Ramirez—well, it was called a double play by the 2B umpire. Let's leave it at that.
In the third, Scutaro turned in a jewel of a defensive play. After A.J. Ellis walked, Kershaw bunted one high. Scutaro let it drop, freezing Ellis, then made a greatly off-balance heave to Crawford covering second base, which the latter fielded on a short hop for the forceout. As the broadcasters noted, Crawford's play deserves nearly as much credit as Scutaro's; with the entire infield crashing in on the bunt, if the ball gets by, Ellis and Kershaw run all day. Both fielders will be recognized on my Giants Top 2012 Plays On D List.
Unfortunately, one inning later, Scutaro would be the goat. LA had already tagged Vogelsong for two hits and a run in the inning when Marco let a sun-drenched pop-up clank off his mitt. Luis Cruz, who is among my favorite "Imposing Batting Stances By A Guy Who's Done Nothing In The Majors" players of the millennium, doubled home LA's second run. The game basically ended here, although the Dodgers tacked on two more against the bullpen later on.
Kershaw cruised on to a complete-game shutout as his Dodgers semi-avenged their June sweep by holding SF scoreless over the final 20 innings of this sweep—vaulting them into a first-place tie. About the only mistake Kershaw made was allowing the trainers onto the field when Scutaro lined one off his glove in the seventh. It's a personal pet peeve of mine from my own playing experience that seems to be cropping up more and more in the pro game: injury concern when someone takes a liner in the glove. They even made Kershaw take warm-up tosses before continuing! He seems too mannerable to protest, but you can bet a more grizzled vet glares the trainer back to the bench.
Theriot endured what had to be one of the most frustrating series of his career. His first-inning popout resulted in another slammed bat, and he would line into a double play in the sixth. He'd go on to similar frustrations as the ensuing Mets series kicked off; Krukow summed it up best on the broadcast on NBC Sports when Theriot finally broke through with a long double to center on July 31, "If that had been caught, Theriot might have turned in his uniform and gone home."
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Speaking of July 31, on that day LA traded for ex-Phillie Shane Victorino, giving me a fresh new Dodger to loathe now that Kemp has earned my respect (I never liked him, but after he got into it with Ramon Ramirez last season and refused to just let things calm, "dislike" graduated to "loathe"), while SF countered by bringing in Hunter "Duane Kuiper Says I Never Blink...And He's Right" Pence from Philly in exchange for Schierholtz and prospects. Saddle up—it's gonna be a fun race, the best Giant/Dodger race since '04, I'm predicting.