Giants close to one game back of Dodgers

Giants close to one game back of Dodgers

Giants close to one game back of Dodgers
SAN FRANCISCO -- As long as Ryan Vogelsong wears a San Francisco uniform, the Giants-Dodgers rivalry remains alive. His role in the Giants' 2-0 victory Tuesday night over Los Angeles confirmed this.

Vogelsong pitched with what he called a "chip on his shoulder," resulting from the self-motivation he maintained to escape the mediocrity that engulfed him for 13 professional seasons. His resolute seven-inning performance led to the Giants' first back-to-back shutouts of the Dodgers at home since Aug. 15-16, 1987, when Dave Dravecky bested Fernando Valenzuela and Mike LaCoss edged Tim Leary.

Vogelsong led an effort that left the Giants one game behind the reeling Dodgers, who have lost seven of their last eight games, in the National League West. That reflects some ambitious climbing by the Giants, who trailed the Dodgers by 7 1/2 games as recently as May 27.

Still goading himself to remain on the All-Star level he reached last year, Vogelsong needed no extra drive as he confronted the division leaders before a lively AT&T Park audience. But Vogelsong admitted that staring at his opponents in blue got his blood boiling -- just as generations of his predecessors, as well as the Dodgers' forefathers, felt as they faced each other from Coogan's Bluff to Candlestick.

His fury, though controlled, was almost visceral. It took root within him after the Giants drafted him in 1998.

"It's not something that was really explained to me," he said. "... No one tells you you have to not like the Dodgers or anything like that. It just rubs off on you. When you're standing on the mound or in the dugout or anywhere in the stadium and you hear the fans chant 'Beat L.A.', and you go to L.A. and hear their fans cheering for them, it just kind of rubs off on you."

San Francisco scored both of its runs in the fourth inning off nemesis Clayton Kershaw (5-4), who yielded Melky Cabrera's homer and Pablo Sandoval's RBI single. Their deeds complemented the labor of the Giants' front office, which accelerated efforts to urge fans to cast All-Star Game votes for them. Cabrera ranks fourth in the balloting among NL outfielders and must finish in the top three to be assured of a starting spot in Kansas City on July 10; Sandoval is second to New York's David Wright among NL third basemen.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was especially impressed with Cabrera, with whom he worked in 2005-06 when Cabrera was a New York Yankees prospect. Mattingly was the Yankees' hitting coach at that time.

"He's a lot better now. It's his confidence," Mattingly said. "To think, Atlanta released Melky Cabrera. Anybody could have signed him. He seems like a confident guy right now. I'm not sure he's this guy [a .352 hitter], but he's swinging good."

Vogelsong (7-3) prevented the Dodgers from swinging effectively. He allowed seven hits but walked only one. Of the six runners he left on base, three were marooned in scoring position as he extended his streak of starts in which he lasted at least six innings to 14.

"It's pretty amazing what he has done and how consistent he's been," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Vogelsong won't let himself slip. After losing to the Angels and their ace, Jered Weaver, last Wednesday, Vogelsong sternly insisted that he needed to defeat pitchers such as Weaver and Kershaw consistently to prove that his breakout 2011 campaign was no fluke.

Yet Vogelsong didn't feel validated by his second victory of the season over Kershaw, whose streak of 35 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run at AT&T Park vanished along with Cabrera's homer.

"It's a step in the right direction," Vogelsong said grudgingly. "I told you multiple times this year that I feel like I have something to prove every game. Just because I came out on the right side in two games with [Kershaw], that doesn't change."

Vogelsong credited his defense, particularly shortstop Joaquin Arias and third baseman Sandoval, for preventing rallies. He also praised catcher Buster Posey for steering him through the Dodgers' lineup, which lacked injured star Matt Kemp.

"I shook him off once in the first inning and [Andre] Ethier hit that double off of me," Vogelsong said. "I kind of said after that I'm not going to shake him unless I'm 100 percent sure. I basically stuck with him the rest of the way."

Having recorded a 2.23 ERA on the heels of his 13-7, 2.71 finish last year, Vogelsong is widely regarded as a legitimately above-average starting pitcher. But he won't let himself believe that he can cruise through his job.

"I never did anything close to good on the Major League level until last year," said Vogelsong, 34. "I heard all the questions in the offseason of whether it was a fluke and I could do it again. I told you in Spring Training that that my job this offseason was to make sure I had another solid year to prove to people and myself that it wasn't a fluke. ... I kind of like the way it is. This drives me. It really does."

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.