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Journeyman Vogelsong looks like an ace for Giants

Right-hander, 35, mows down Cardinals to force Game 7 on Monday

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

10:58 PM CDT, October 21, 2012

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SAN FRANCISCO — This is the time of year when baseball executives sift through the discard bin, looking for useful, inexpensive pieces that add needed inventory.

They might bear down a little more than usual this week, as Ryan Vogelsong demonstrated Sunday night the returns can be quite high if you choose wisely. He took the AT&T Park mound against the Cardinals' bellwether guy, Chris Carpenter, and looked like somebody's untouchable first-rounder.

Like Barry Zito two nights earlier, the 35-year-old right-hander hung up a long line of zeros against a team that had been the most productive in the postseason. The Giants won 6-1, forcing a deciding game Monday night.

"I saw the way our team reacted when Barry came out and took the bull by the horns early,'' Vogelsong said. "I saw how our team was keying off that. I was really focused on shutting them down early and giving us a chance to score runs.''

Next to the Giants and their fans — including the noisy, Panda-hat wearing crowd of 43,070 in the ballpark — nobody enjoyed this win more than the Tigers.

Matt Cain will face Kyle Lohse in Game 7, and that means the American League champions — as rested as they are talented — should have a huge advantage at the start of the World Series.

While the Tigers will start Justin Verlander and Doug Fister on Wednesday and Thursday, their opponent will be scrambling.

With Cain working Monday, he and Vogelsong would not be fully rested until Game 3. Giants manager Bruce Bochy would choose among Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Zito for the first two games, and those three have gone 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA in five postseason starts.

Lohse and Carpenter likewise would be off the table if the Cardinals win Monday. The shoulder injury Jaime Garcia suffered against the Nationals means Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would go with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, who are 1-1 with a 6.65 ERA in the playoffs.

It might not matter whom the Tigers start. All four of their guys have been effective, putting together a 1.02 ERA while holding opponents to a .162 batting average. That's dominance.

Vogelsong, signed as a minor league free agent two winters ago, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning against a Cardinals team missing Matt Holliday (tight back, questionable for Game 7) and struck out a career-high nine. It was the kind of performance the Giants have gotten every time they've needed one this October.

This was the fifth time they've won when a loss would have ended their season, and they are on the verge of an escape that would match their great one against the Reds. They won three in a row at Great American Ball Park after falling into a 2-0 hole in the division series and have evened this series 3-3 after trailing 3-1.

It didn't seem they had enough pitching to get back into this. But Zito and Vogelsong delivered when they had to, and the Cardinals have twice paid dearly for defensive flinches.

Lynn hit the second-base bag with a throw trying to turn a double play in Game 5, which opened the door for the Giants to score four unearned runs. They put up three unearned runs in the second inning Sunday after shortstop Pete Kozma hurried on a grounder.

The four-run inning gave the Giants a 5-0 lead, and Vogelsong took over from there.

Zito had fooled and frustrated the Cardinals. Vogelsong was quite the contrast.

He stood tall on the mound, throwing 93 mph fastballs, a sharp curve and occasional changeups. He set the tone immediately, throwing his fastball on 16 of 18 pitches in the first inning, including the first 13. So much for subtlety.

And here's a bad thought for the Cardinals.

Cain was watching how Vogelsong did it, and he is one of those untouchable first-rounders.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers