Ryan Vogelsong hopes to add to his postseason legacy on Wednesday and pitch the San Francisco Giants to the brink of a National League pennant, as they continue the NLCS versus the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 at AT&T Park.
Often overlooked on a staff that includes top-of-the-rotation guys like Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, as well as Tim Hudson and former NL Cy Young Award winners Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy, it's been Vogelsong, though, who has been the driving force come postseason time.
He was 3-0 in four starts during the Giants' World Series title run in 2012 and with a terrific outing in the NLDS clincher over the Washington Nationals, Vogelsong became the only starting pitcher in MLB to allow one run or fewer in each of his first five career postseason starts (since 1903).
In fact, Vogelsong is just the second pitcher in postseason history to have five consecutive starts of allowing one or fewer runs (Curt Schilling: 6 starts from Oct. 21, 1993 to Oct. 31, 2001). He's also pitched to a 1.19 ERA in five postseason starts, with the Giants going 5-0 in those outings.
"Yeah, it's the same. I mean, this time of year, I said this the last time, you can't replace the way it feels to pitch in the playoffs. You know, I said it's what you play your whole life for -- growing up in the backyard, your whole Little League, high school, college, Minor Leagues -- to get into these situations. So they are all exciting. They all bring a little bit different emotion depending on the game and the situation. But they are all exciting and the fans here are electric all the time. So it's going to be intense."
Only Orlando Hernandez (0.97) has a lower postseason ERA through their first five postseason starts than Vogelsong.
Vogelsong was only 8-13 during the regular season with a 4.00 ERA and is just 2-6 lifetime versus the Cardinals with a 6.17 ERA. However, he did beat the Cards twice in the 2012 NLCS and struck out 13 batters in 14 innings.
San Francisco grabbed the upper hand in this series on Tuesday, as Brandon Crawford scored from second base on a throwing error by reliever Randy Choate in the 10th inning and the Giants eked out a 5-4 win in Game 3.
Crawford went to second base on a single by Juan Perez, who was only swinging because he fouled off two bunt attempts. Choate (0-1) fielded Gregor Blanco's bunt and threw wide to first base for an error, touching off a celebration for the Giants, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"It couldn't have worked out better," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Perez can't lay down a bunt and he gets a hit. You're playing with house money at that point."
Randal Grichuk had tied the game for St. Louis with a solo homer in the seventh as the Cardinals came close to building on their postseason narrative.
All four of their wins have come after they either trailed or were tied going into the seventh inning, including Game 2 on Sunday when Kolten Wong hit a walk-off homer to earn a split in St. Louis.
"We've just come to expect it," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "That's a good place to be when we get down."
The Cardinals have hit 12 homers in seven playoff games after finishing last in the NL during the regular season with 105. The Giants have just two homers in eight playoff games.
Getting the call for the Cardinals on Wednesday will be righty Shelby Miller, who has been among the best pitchers in baseball since the start of September. Miller was 2-0 with a 1.48 ERA in five starts down the stretch and was solid in his NL DS start against the Dodgers, in which he yielded two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
"Shelby has done a nice job all the way down the stretch," Matheny said, "and his last start was one of his best. So we're excited to watch him pitch."
Miller likely won't have Yadier Molina behind the plate, as he continues to nurse an oblique injury. He is still listed as day-to-day, but either Tony Cruz or A.J. Pierzynski will get the call in his absence.
A.J. and Tony are guys that have been around for a while," Miller said. "Especially A.J. He knows a lot of these hitters, and same with Tony. I know Tony works a lot with Yadi on video.
"You trust in those guys, the same way you would with Yadi. You've got to believe in those guys and how much they work, and (you have to know) that they are going to do their job. We as a team believe in those guys, too."
San Francisco is 14-5 at home in the NLCS, the best winning percentage of any major league team with at least 10 games of LCS play. They are riding a four- game winning streak at AT&T Park in NLCS play and have won 13 of their past 16 at home dating to 1987.
The Giants took four of their seven meetings during the season with the Cardinals, outscoring them, 30-20.
San Francisco has played the Cardinals three other times in the playoffs. St. Louis edged the Giants in a thrilling seven-game series in 1987, but San Francisco has beaten the Cards both in 2002 and 2012.