Pablo Sandoval watched from the side. "I love the way he throws the ball, man," the third baseman said. "It was exciting to watch."
No matter how you look at it, Ryan Vogelsong's incredible saga just keeps getting a little more unbelievable.
The latest chapter was written Sunday night when the 35-year-old right-hander authored the latest greatest game of his life. He held the defending World Series champion Cardinals to one run on four hits in seven innings. He struck out a career-high nine. As the sellout crowd at AT&T Park chanted his name -- "Vogey! Vogey!" -- he pitched his team to a 6-1 win that deadlocked the best-of-seven National League Championship Series at three games apiece.
He has been one of the best pitchers in the NL for the last two years, but as the whole world knows by now, it's a tale of amazing perseverance. Vogelsong was out of the Major Leagues for five seasons. He was released by the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs one year before making the NL All-Star team in 2011. He went to Japan and winter ball, just hoping for a chance.
Spot among aces
|Ryan Vogelsong||10/21/2012||NLCS 6||7||4||1||1||9|
|Nolan Ryan||10/14/1986||NLCS 5||9||2||1||1||12|
|Josh Beckett||10/12/2003||NLCS 5||9||2||0||1||11|
|Randy Johnson||10/16/2001||NLCS 1||9||3||0||1||11|
|Cliff Lee||10/18/2009||NLCS 3||8||3||0||0||10|
And now he's made the most of it. The Giants have taken three games in this series, and Vogelsong has been the winning pitcher in two of them. He has a 1.29 NLCS ERA. He's inspired not only the fans who serenaded him, but his own teammates, as well.
"He was outstanding," said right fielder Hunter Pence. "That's the heart and soul right there. With the fans chanting, 'Vogey! Vogey,' with everything it took. He's had such a long journey, such an incredible story. For that moment, for him to be out there in that moment, it's something you can't explain. One of the happiest feelings I've ever had.
"Those kinds of moments are really indescribable. It's something I'll personally cherish. Sometimes when you look around, this is just an incredible thing to be a part of. This night will probably never be forgotten by a lot of people. To see him pitch that way and succeed was just really great."
Added closer Sergio Romo: "Knowing the type of competitor he is, the type of teammate he is, how much he cares, everything that he puts into his trade ... I'm very proud to know that guy. I'm very proud to put on the same jersey as that man. We needed that."
Timing is everything, second baseman Marco Scutaro said.
"It seems like our pitchers have hit their stride at just the right time," Scutaro said. "[Barry Zito in Game 5] and Vogelsong both came out and set the tone early. They gave us that early boost."
Vogelsong said he consciously tried to follow Zito's pattern.
"I saw the way our team reacted when Barry came out and kind of took the bull by the horns early," the righty said. "I saw how our team was feeding off that."
Vogelsong also allowed just one run in his first career postseason start, Game 3 of the NL Division Series against Cincinnati.
Giants two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum saluted his work ethic, but Vogelsong isn't sure that's the whole answer.
"I worked like that when I wasn't pitching very well in Pittsburgh and Japan," Vogelsong said. "It's just how I've been. My dad kind of raised me that way. When I came into this game, everybody kind of said, 'Don't let that be the reason why you don't succeed.' So I decided I was going to do everything I could off the field to prepare myself for the games.
He said he thought he had better stuff in Game 2, but added that Sunday night was still special.
"These fans, they bring it all the time," Vogelsong said. "It's pretty amazing. I'm standing on the mound and they're cheering [my name]. It just makes you want to get the job done for them. Makes you want to dig down a little bit. That's making this something I'm never, ever going to forget."
The support of the organization is just as important.
"These guys believe in me," Vogelsong said. "Every person in that clubhouse, to the coaching staff, to the front office, they believe in me, and that rubs off. It doesn't make the game any easier, but it's easier to go out there when you know everyone's behind you and thinks that you're going to get the job done. Nobody wants to be the guy that doesn't get it done."
On a most memorable night, he made sure he wasn't that guy.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.