Another epic comeback will be in store for the San Francisco Giants against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS on Sunday night. Ryan Vogelsong will take the hill against a team he has owned since 2011 and force a deciding Game 7 at AT&T Park.
As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observes, Vogelsong has pitched 19 innings in three starts facing the Cards in the past year or so with a 0.95 ERA.
I rest my case.
Not really, but it's pretty clear that Vogelsong has been dominant. Prior to Barry Zito's stellar 7.2 innings of shutout ball, Vogelsong yielded just one run in the Giants' only prior victory of the series in Game 2.
ESPN Stats & Info had an interesting note about Vogelsong's sold outing from this past week:
Ryan Vogelsong is the FIFTH Giants starter to allow 1 earned run or fewer in 7 innings of work in a start which took place in the NLCS.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 16, 2012
While St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter is historically good in his own right, he has missed most of the season and is still trying to get back into the groove. He has flashed brilliance at times this postseason, but San Francisco definitely has the crucial edge on the mound that it needs to extend the series.
Vogelsong is a journeyman who will not have pitched a more crucial game than he will this evening. The opponent could not be more ideal for him to give the Giants a chance to live another day, and put them on the brink of the World Series.
The 35-year-old's devastating sinker has been the Cards' undoing in their matchups against the veteran, who will not overpower opponents and will get a lot of contact outs.
According to BrooksBaseball.net, Vogelsong's opponents swung most at the sinker and his circle changeup in 2012. Of the balls that were in play, nearly half of them were ground balls on both pitches.
His sinker and changeup come from the same release points, and the drastic speed difference causes hitters to hit ground balls frequently. Batters jump in front of the circle changeup, which forces hitters to roll over it, and the sinker is hard to drive as it tails lower in the strike zone.
That helps significantly neutralize the explosiveness of the Cardinals lineup, which had Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and David Freese all hit over 20 home runs during the regular season.
As long as Vogelsong continues to not allow his sinker to hang up in the strike zone, he will continue to be a nightmare pitcher for Mike Matheny's talented bunch to negotiate.
A typical performance by Vogelsong will be enough to rally the Giants one more time. It will then set up staff ace Matt Cain with an opportunity to get San Fran back to the MLB promised land for the second time in three years.