The 35-year-old journeyman pitcher enters Game 6 of the NLCS with a chance to propel his team one step closer to winning their second NL pennant in three seasons. Ryan Vogelsong will take the ball at AT&T Park this Sunday night in what will be the biggest start of his major league career.
Don't expect Vogelsong to back down, especially in front of what will be a raucous home crowd. Vogelsong dominated Game 2 en route to a 7-1 Giants win. He'll try to duplicate that performance against former ace Chris Carpenter, who earned the loss in their first matchup. Vogelsong has allowed just 12 runners to reach base in 12 innings pitched this postseason while surrendering only two earned runs.
Vogelsong doesn't overpower hitters with velocity; his two-seam fastball ranges from 89-91mph with hard downward movement, forcing batters to hit the ball on the ground. He mixes that pitch with a nasty cutter, painting the corner against righties while keeping them off-balance with a changeup that ranges 81-83mph. The Cardinals stack their lineup with right-handed hitters, giving Vogelsong a seeming edge as righties hit just .230 against him.
St. Louis will attempt to fend off Vogelsong and the Giants to win their second consecutive NL pennant, and they'll need a solid outing from Carpenter to accomplish the feat.
Carpenter was lackluster in four innings of work in Game 2, giving up five runs on six hits, including a lead-off home run to speedy outfielder Angel Pagan. He has failed to get through the sixth inning in both of his playoff starts, although the hard-throwing right hander earned the win in his first postseason appearance against the Washington Nationals.
Vogelsong has to out-duel Carpenter again if the Giants are going to force a decisive Game 7.
If he fails to do so, it won't be for lack of aptitude. Vogelsong will enter Game 6 with the same attitude that virtually aided him in reaching his pinnacle of success. A win would strengthen his accolades and force him into the upper echelon of big league pitchers.
But it's not notoriety that Vogelsong seeks.
His elongated baseball journey has never been about that. Vogelsong's consistent demonstration of resilience embodies the mindset shared by his teammates. His inclination to achieve success and essentially 'win the day' is what drives Vogelsong. It's what has launched the San Francisco Giants into believing they can overcome yet another gigantic playoff series deficit, and it's what impels a sense of defeat into each opponent.
Vogelsong will try to give the Giants their fifth win in elimination games this postseason, a feat rarely accomplished.
Giants Manager Bruce Bochy assimilates his band of hard-nosed ballplayers with "cockroaches." They sustain a "can't-be-killed" mentality, partially encompassed in Vogelsong's fortitude. The Giants will test their resilience again in Game 6 and Ryan Vogelsong will lead the way.