Vogelsong moved by fans' embrace in SF return

Vogelsong moved by fans' embrace in SF return

SAN FRANCISCO -- The words on the scoreboard beneath Ryan Vogelsong's name read "Forever Giant," but the scene at AT&T Park did far more to explain the relationship between the man, this city and these fans.

Vogelsong returned to San Francisco on Monday, allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings in an 8-5 Pirates victory and won his first start against the Giants since ending his second, storybook tenure with the club that initially drafted him.

"There's moments in these games that you want to hold on to and remember for the rest of your life," Vogelsong said. "Tonight was one of those for me."

The veteran right-hander's unlikely success story resonated with a passionate fanbase celebrating three World Series titles in five years, and Vogelsong helped hang two of the flags on the left-field wall at AT&T Park. The mutual respect was obvious Monday night.

Vogelsong received a small standing ovation as he walked down the right-field line to the bullpen. But he warmed up well, he said. He felt like he was ready to pitch.

"I wasn't ready for the ovation," he said. "It kind of threw me off a little bit. Awesome."

Aside from catcher Francisco Cervelli, stalling in front of home plate, and Andrew McCutchen, who made the last out in the top of the first, Vogelsong was on his own for a few moments to start the bottom of the inning as the crowd stood and cheered and the scoreboard flashed through highlights of Vogelsong's five years in San Francisco.

Giants welcome back Vogelsong

Vogelsong didn't see the video. But he heard the fans, and he knew he was alone.

"That was classy. Not surprising," Vogelsong said. "I turned around like, 'Where the heck is everyone at?'"

When the reunion began, Vogelsong was still overwhelmed by emotions that led to mental mistakes. He walked in a run during the 24-pitch first inning. He settled down after that, finishing the fifth inning with a 3-2 lead.

"I don't expect anything less from these fans. They're first-class and always have been," Vogelsong said. "It's hard to stay locked in and be appreciative at the same time."

Vogelsong came back out for the sixth and served up a solo home run to Eduardo Nunez. He retired the next two batters, then Denard Span took him deep to right field, ending his night. He tried to wave off manager Clint Hurdle, but Hurdle's mind was made up.

"He went out and he did what he does. He competed, battled," Hurdle said. "His job is to pitch, and my job is to manage."

When Vogelsong was done, he stopped in front of the dugout as the crowd stood once again. The usually stoic 39-year-old removed his cap and waved to the fans, inciting even more cheers, and soaked in the applause before disappearing into the dugout.

"Incredible," Vogelsong said. "Very out of character for me, especially after I just gave up two home runs."

But this wasn't a normal night for Vogelsong, forever a fan favorite in San Francisco.

"I don't think it was just another day at the park," Hurdle said. "It's what makes sport great. It's what makes cities special and the relationships people can develop with them."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.