SAN FRANCISCO -- After slow starts to the season, Ryan Vogelsong and Pablo Sandoval have had a resurgence that has helped send the San Francisco Giants to the top of the standings.
Vogelsong struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings of a second straight scoreless start and Pablo Sandoval homered for the fourth time in six games to lead the Giants to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.
"I feel like when I'm out there, I can throw anything in any count," Vogelsong said. "That's a great feeling. It's not always like that, but the last couple of games it has been that way. It definitely helps your mentality on the mound."
Vogelsong (3-2) followed up seven scoreless innings against Miami by limiting the Twins to three hits and one walk to give him a 1.35 ERA in his past six starts. The win gave the Giants (31-18) the best record in baseball.
Josmil Pinto broke up the shutout bid with a leadoff homer in the ninth inning against Sergio Romo, but that was all the Twins could manage. Romo retired the next three batters to get his 16th save in 18 chances.
Samuel Deduno (1-3) allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings after being moved up a day in Minnesota's rotation, but ended up on the short end because of the performances from Vogelsong and Sandoval.
Sandoval got off to a slow start in a contract year and was batting under .200 as late as May 13. But he has found his stroke of late to lead the way for San Francisco.
"He has his timing and he has his confidence going," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That usually comes with success. That was the longest tough streak he has ever gone through. It looks like he has come out of it and is making great contact right now."
Sandoval gave San Francisco the lead for good in his first at-bat for the second straight night, sending an 0-2 pitch from Deduno over the wall in left-centre to lead off the second inning with his sixth homer of the season. It was a rare two-strike hit for Sandoval, who came in with just five hits in 79 at-bats for an .063 average after reaching two strikes.
"I missed a changeup," Deduno said. "I like to throw it on the ground, but it was just a little bit up. That's why he hit it."
Sandoval added a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning after a poor throw from second baseman Brian Dozier cost the Twins the chance at a double play.
That was enough for Vogelsong, who pitched out of trouble in the first three innings before finding his groove. The Twins had a runner on second with one out in each of the first three innings, but couldn't score against Vogelsong, who has rebounded after posting a 7.71 ERA in his first four starts.
"He was throwing good cutters to both sides of the plate," Twins outfielder Jason Kubel said. "If you're thinking cutter, he'll throw the straight one in at you, too, and it gets guys to chase. He's got a good curveball. When he's got his pitches, he's tough to hit."
Vogelsong was replaced after making a throwing error on Aaron Hicks' comebacker with two outs and no on in the seventh. Juan Gutierrez got pinch-hitter Chris Herrmann to ground out to escape the inning.
NOTES: The Giants improved to 23-4 when scoring first. ... Minnesota OF Josh Willingham (left wrist) is expected to be activated from the DL on Monday when the team opens a four-game homestand vs. Texas. Oswaldo Arcia (right wrist) is also expected to be activated. ... Giants RHP Matt Cain will miss his scheduled start Monday because of an injured hamstring that did not feel 100 per cent during a pregame bullpen session. Yusmeiro Petit will start in his place. ... Madison Bumgarner (5-3) will start the series finale for San Francisco against Ricky Nolasco (2-4).