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World Series Game 3, Giants 2, Tigers 0: Ryan Vogelsong And The Crying Game

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I wrote several days ago that post-season statistics are boring. Whether a guy hits .225 or .300, whether a pitcher has an ERA in the 2's or 3's or 4's, it's all skewed by tiny sample sizes and doesn't tell much of a story until you get into insane territory like Marco Scutaro's performance against the Cardinals. What matters is getting to three, four, and four wins first.

But then the Giants came along, fumbled and stumbled and bar-fight-punched their way to a series win in Cincinnati, with very little help from the starting pitchers except Ryan Vogelsong. To our horror they began the same cycle against St. Louis, again with the Vogelsong exception. Then something else happened. You might have seen these numbers bandied about this night, with the Giants now one game from a stunning sweep to cap a stunning run through the postseason. But I'll hit you with them anyway: 

- The Tigers are the first American League team to be shut out in consecutive World Series games since the 1919 White Sox, which, if you know your baseball history, was a team that didn't think scoring runs was a high priority. 

- The Giants have not trailed since Game 4 of the NLCS. Six games, 54 innings. 

- Tim Lincecum: 13 bullpen innings, 3 hits, 2 walks, 17 Ks, 1 run allowed. Other relievers have thrown just as well in the post-season over that number of innings, but I'll bet none of them were one-time ace starters coming off their worst season ever, being moved to the bullpen for the first time in their careers. 

- Ryan Vogelsong is pitching in the post-season. That's not a statistic, it's just something to melt your heart a little bit, and wait a second, I'm not done; your heart has as much chance as an ice shelf at the end of the Romney Administration. Ryan Vogelsong is one Giant win away from a World Series ring, and he's a damn good candidate for the team's post-season MVP. Only two pitchers in major-league history have thrown at least five innings with zero or one runs allowed in their first four post-season starts: Ryan Vogelsong and Christy Mathewson. Think of all the pitchers, Hall of Famers or not, who've had spectacular post-season runs: Orel Hershiser, Denny McLain, Bob Gibson, Luis Tiant, Matt Cain. Now think of Ryan Vogelsong. Why no, I'm not... it's just... damn allergies. Sorry, I need to blow my nose and collect my thoughts. 

- OK, I'm back. Whew. What I'm about to show you isn't a statistic, either, but it's the best picture I can think of to describe this entire crazy wonderful crazy playoff run: 


That's Miguel Cabrera vs. Ryan Vogelsong in the fifth inning. (From the catcher's perspective, that is; Cabrera is standing on the left side, facing away from you.) Fastball on the hands, fouled down the right field line. Fastball above the hands, popped up to shortstop. Bases left loaded, threat extinguished, inning and, for all intents and purposes, game over. 

Wait, that's the second best picture I can think of to describe what's happened these past three weeks. Here's the first. But Vogelsong's pitch sequence to Cabrera was two five-ounce horsehide spheres full of cork, twine, precision, smarts, and execution. Those two pitches were everything a pitcher dreams about: Body and mind and mechanics singing and zinging, a harmonious connection to the sweaty guy crouched behind the plate. Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez was in that zone most of the night, too, except in the second inning, when he threw fastballs over his catcher's head -- one to the backstop -- and didn't quite get that curve ball down enough to Gregor Blanco, who raked it for a game-changing triple. Sanchez got a five-minute spell of the schpilkis, and it was all the Giants needed. 

It was five more minutes than all the Giants pitchers have had, combined, the past six games -- which include four shutouts FOUR SHUTOUTS ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? -- but none more schpilkis-less than Ryan Vogelsong, who told the media after the game: 

"I've been waiting for this since I was five years old."

So have we, Ryan. You think the long wait until 2010 makes us jaded now? Bah. And...and...wait a sec. Pass me that box of Kleenex.

Just as Vogelsong is probably MVP of this entire October stranger-than-fiction, I'm going to start building the dossier for Gregor Blanco, World Series MVP. No, this is not a jinxable moment. Stop it. I'm not counting chickens, or Venezuelans, or putting carts before bunt singles. I'm simply saying that to this point, even if the writers (or whoever votes for Series MVP) say Pablo Sandoval's three home runs give him the title, bolstered by a few more subsequent hits and a few excellent stops with his glove, I'd counter than Gregor Blanco deserves contemplation. He had a huge impact on Games 2 and 3. The former for his bunt single, two diving catches, and hustle for the carom that led to the throw that led to the tag of Prince Fielder at home that kept the Tigers from scoring first; the latter for more beautiful D and the biggest hit of the game, the triple in the second inning. Blanco struck out three times in Game 1, and I don't remember any important defense. So let's see where the next few days take us. If Blanco adds anything notable to the dossier, I'm taking my case to the United Nations and banging my shoe on the lectern.




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Header photo courtesy of Flickr user eviltomthai under a Creative Commons license.