Vogelsong and Giants bullpen top Nationals

The Giants’ disabled list got a little bit longer before Thursday night’s Giants, Nationals four-game series kicked off. Nori Aoki, after an early departure in last night’s game, was officially put back on the disabled list.

This time, the seven-day concussion list.

What’s left of this August is looking foggy depth wise; Aoki joins Joe Panik, Andrew Susac, Mike Leake, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Angel Pagan on what seems like an endless road to recovery.

Though some are clawing their way back up — Hudson will start his rehab assignment in San Jose tomorrow and Susac’s rehab is well underway — the Giants have spent most of the second half desperately plugging lineup holes and attempting to cushion a very thin bench through their farm system.

Most of the fallen aren’t expected back until September and, with the team just 2.5 games back of the Dodgers in the West and 4.5 back of the Cubs in the Wild Card race, that’s just too much time to waste.

The Giants, on the cusp of a big playoff push, made an offer to the Phillies for veteran second baseman Chase Utley, who’s cleared waivers and may be looking for a new baseball home close to his real one in Sausalito.

The UCLA kid could also go back to SoCal with the Dodgers or maybe to the Cubs or Yankees. But is he willing to play a secondary role to Joe Panik once the All-Star’s back heals?

That’s the deciding factor, it seems, in this race for another veteran.

Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson aren’t the best options to fill the void.

Adrianza isn’t reaching base much and the early Tomlinson hype has quickly died down. Utley’s challenge, should he accept, would be to pick up any infield slack.

Be the infield’s Andrew Susac. As of now, though, there’s no big news from the veteran.

While we wait, breath bated, let’s see what the Giants are capable of despite the injuries that have plagued them; San Francisco beat a newly healthy Stephen Strasburg and former NLDS foe Nationals 3-1 on Thursday night behind a gutsy outing from Ryan Vogelsong and a fresh bullpen.

Vogelsong, starting for an injured Leake, gave one of his best performances this season. He only gave up three hits, tying his season low, and struck out eight, a season high.

Oh, and that lone earned run, that came off the very first pitch of the game: Washington’s Yunel Escobar launched the fastball to left, danced around the bases, saluted the sky, and ultimately left the Nationals’ only gash of the night.

The home run kicked off a rough first for Vogelsong. He struggled through the rest of the inning, giving up three walks and tossing 29 pitches before his escape to the dugout, thanks in part to a spectacular stop from Brandon Crawford off Ryan Zimmerman‘s bat, said Vogelsong:

“Craw made a great play. Sometimes the first inning can be tough, I need to do a better job of having a quicker first innings. That kind of hurt me for the rest of the game there pitch count wise.”

The heavy first weighed him down. He dealt two 1-2-3 innings and didn’t give up another hit until the fruitless fourth, but had already dished upwards of 90 pitches before his departure.

Vogelsong had crisp strike-three stuff, but was aware of his pitch count issues:

“I guess I had some deception on my fastball and maybe a little extra zip. Still got some things to clean up. Falling behind in counts and going deep counts and just runs your pitch count up too quick.”

The Giants’ offense gave him a shoulder to lean on, though, following the leadoff home run with a two-run bottom of the first.

Gregor Blanco worked a leadoff triple on a 3-2 count and Matt Duffy broke the team’s 23 at-bat hitless streak with RISP with an RBI single hit the opposite way to score Blanco and tie the game.

Buster Posey brought him home, after Brandon Belt walked, with an RBI single to left. Posey went 2-for-4 and Blanco picked up the outfield slack, going 1-for-3 with a walk. Bruce Bochy voiced his appreciation for Blanco:

“I think that leadoff hitter can set the tone too. We talk about the pitcher, but the top of the order, the table setters, and of course he jump started us in that first inning…We know how good he is defensively but he’s had a good year offensively.” 

Vogelsong was happy to have ’em in rally mode:

“That was huge, especially against a guy like Strasburg. He’s tough. His stuff is really good. And for us to come out there and answer really quick sends a message that we’re not gonna go away.” 

Strasburg took his first career regular season loss against the Giants. He came to SF with a clean 3-0 record in five starts against them.

Vogelsong win is due in large part to a refreshed bullpen, off two days between Chicago and Madison Bumgarner‘s complete game on Tuesday. Hunter Strickland tossed two perfect innings and struck out the first two batters he faced in six pitches, including a 98 mph see-ya-later fastball to Wilson Ramos in the sixth.

Bochy saved an overworked George Kontos and gave Strickland the reliever nod. He wasn’t disappointed:

“He gave us what we needed there to get to the setup guy and the closer. He’s really pitched well. He’s more of a pitcher now than he was last year.” 

Vogelsong was impressed:

“He was pretty awesome tonight. To throw that hard and have the command he does and now he’s commanding his off-speed stuff too, it’s fun to watch.”

Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla knocked the Nats out clean, tossing the final two innings and giving up just two combined hits.

The bullpen is back! At least, for now, while they’re running on that one day of rest. Any other day and Vogelsong five innings just might not have been enough for the overworked ‘pen to salvage.

Notes

Buster Posey was tagged out at home from second after third base coach Roberto Kelly challenged Bryce Harper‘s arm on a shallow hit by Hunter Pence.

Not the best call?

Bryce Harper’s arm beats Buster Posey’s tired legs any day. Do we storm Kelly’s  house with pitchforks demanding his resignation? Obviously not. Chill out. Bochy said of Posey’s journey from second to home:

“We’re in August. I’m sure these guys are feeling it a little bit. Everybody is in baseball. We DH in Texas, he had day off in Chicago, we had a day off. … I think he looks fresh to be honest, but I’m not looking for speed from him because he’s catching a lot.”


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