Ryan Vogelsong makes me want to believe in things that I do not. He makes me want to imagine that fate can lead individuals to a point where wherein they will have every opportunity imaginable to succeed and perform past what their peak was previously imagined to be. He makes me want to believe in the stuff that makes sappy pop songs and movies about redemption.

He did all of this by pitching a no-hitter through four and two-thirds innings in the biggest game of his career, allowing only a single run in seven full innings of work, while striking out nine batters. Thanks to an early offensive explosion from the San Francisco Giants, Vogelsong’s efforts were more than enough to force an unlikely Game Seven in the NLCS, after the team’s second straight victory with their season on the line.

The Giants struck early in the bottom of the first inning with a ground out from Buster Posey that brought home Marco Scutaro for the game’s first run. It was Posey’s first RBI of the NLCS, and it was far from a sure thing, as St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese had the opportunity to throw Scutaro out at home, but suffered a bout of indecisiveness at the worst possible split second.

The flood gates opened up a bit further with a four-run second inning that began with a Brandon Belt triple to right field. He scored on a hit-and-run with Vogelsong at bat, and then, a two-out double from Scutaro knocked in two more runs. Pablo Sandoval capped things off with a hit up the middle to make it 5-0.

The Cardinals got one back in the sixth when Carlos Beltran’s two-out double was followed by a Craig Allen single that scored the St. Louis right fielder. However, the Giants weren’t through, collecting an RBI single from a pinch-hitting Ryan Theriot in the bottom of the eighth to make it 6-1. Sergio Romo came in to clean up the top of the ninth, and ensure that this was the final score.

The Game In A Picture

It was not for a lack of seriousness that the St. Louis Cardinals lost on Sunday night.

The Win Expectancy Graph

The Most Important Play Of The Game

While Marco Scutaro’s double in the second inning, that scored two runs and gave the Giants a four run lead, increased his team’s win probability more than any other play on Sunday night, it wasn’t the most important play of the game. That honor belongs to whoever it was in the San Francisco front office who made the play to give a Minor League contract and Spring Training invitation to Ryan Vogelsong ahead of the 2011 season.

After pitching for three seasons in Japan, Vogelsong signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was eventually released by the team in the middle of July after not being able to break the big league roster. He then signed a Minor League contract with the Los Angeles Angels at the end of the month, but spent the remainder of the year with their Triple-A affiliate.

After impressing enough during Spring Training to remain in the organization, Vogelsong was eventually called up in mid-April to replace an injured Barry Zito. He’s now an integral part of the rotation, and he pitched the greatest game of his career on Sunday night in San Francisco.

Or, maybe it was the enchiladas that his wife made for him ahead of Game Six.

Ryan Vogelson’g Fastball

Typically, Vogelsong throws a fastball that sits in the 90 – 92 miles per hour range. On Sunday, his fastball was being released at a velocity between 92 – 94 miles per hour. Just like in Game Two, Vogelsong went through the lineup the first time pitching fastballs almost exclusively.

That’s not really all that odd of a thing for the typical starting pitcher. In fact, it’s become something of a cliche to establish your fastball early. However, for Vogelsong, it marks a big difference from how he approached a lineup during the regular season. Let’s look at the progression of this approach.

Here’s his velocity chart from his previous start in the series against the Cardinals:

And here’s his velocity chart from his first start of the postseason against the Cincinnati Reds:

In each start, he’s progressively thrown more and more fastballs the first time through the lineup, and then gone to his off speed and breaking pitches the second or third time through. Each time, Vogelsong has progressively improved his results, too.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

Matt Carpenter, who was in the lineup only because Matt Holliday had stiffness in his back, was the only Cardinals player to get on base more than once on Sunday night. He drew a walk in the first inning, and got an eighth inning hit off of Jeremy Affeldt. Neither amounted to very much, but it was still a more successful effort than any other Cardinals batter.

The Aggravating Thing The Manager Did

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called for Chris Carpenter to intentionally walk Brandon Crawford to get to pitcher Ryan Vogelsong in the second inning with one out, and a base runner on third base. San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy put both runners in motion on the first pitch to Vogelsong, who managed to bump the ball to the left of the pitcher’s mound. Confused by the hit-and-run, shortstop Pete Kozma mishandled the ball, and the runner on third scored without St. Louis getting an out.

With one out, and San Francisco’s two weakest hitters due up in a row, walking Crawford wasn’t the right move, even though it created a potential double play. Bochy smartly diminished the potential for that by putting his runners in motion before contact was made.

The Aggravating Reasonable Thing The Manager Did

While it may have seemed strange for Cardinals fans to see Chris Carpenter up to bat in the second inning after allowing five runs on 52 pitches, it should be remembered that Matheny has a bit more room for error than Bochy. The Cardinals manager doesn’t necessarily want to burn through a bullpen when he’s already down by five runs, and when he may need their efforts on Monday night.

That’s not to mention that Carpenter was the recipient of some bad bounces and poor managerial decisions during the first two innings, including David Freese’s indecisiveness and a questionable intentional walk.

The Aggravating Thing The Broadcasters Did

Courtesy of http://30fps.mocksession.com/.

FOX analyst Tim McCarver likened San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean acquiring Ryan Vogelsong ahead of his breakout season to picking grapes for the purposes of wine at the peak of their maturity in the most awkward fashion possible. He then went on to list players having good years in San Francisco and tried to further force the metaphor down the collective throats of North America.

The Things You Won’t Believe

This aged rock star started the game by yelling, “Let’s play ball.”

Marco Scutaro is 11-for-24 in the NLCS.

In the seventh inning, Ryan Vogelsong struck out his ninth batter of the night. That’s a career high. In a playoff game. In which his team could’ve been eliminated.

This woman sang God Bless America during the seventh inning, and it reminded me of the time I took magic mushrooms and saw We Were Soldiers at a theatre. It was that frightening. Also, I just love San Francisco.

She was followed by Lil Wayne singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame.

Since 1975, 14 home teams won a Game Six to force a Game Seven. 13 of 14 went on to win the series.

However, the St. Louis Cardinals are 11-4 all-time in Game Sevens, which is the best win total and winning percentage for any team in MLB history.

This was the fifth straight elimination game that the San Francisco Giants have won this postseason.

Tweets Of The Game

Stray Observations

I know his knees are hurting, but Carlos Beltran’s inability to get to Brandon Belt’s deep fly ball that hit the wall in right field cost the Cardinals a base at best, and a run at worst.

Was that really a hit and run with the pitcher hitting that scored the Giants second run of the game? Yes. Yes, it was.

Shelby Miller’s mop up duties for the Cardinals are likely to be forgotten, but the 22-year-old right-handed pitcher came into the game to start the fifth inning, and pitched really well, allowing only a single hit over two innings while striking out two and not allowing a single run.

Ditto for Fernando Sallas, who pitched an inning and a third of perfect baseball, striking out two of the four batters he faced.

The first three strike outs are always the most awkward for the home fans.

It might have been strange to see Sergio Romo come out to pitch the ninth with a five run lead, but Romo actually pitched better in the second half of back-to-back outings this year than he did with multiple days off. I don’t know if it was done with this in mind, or even if it has any meaning, but it’s something.

I have never heard a crowd through a television broadcast of a baseball game be so loud in all my life. It was awesome.

Typically speaking, I hate the god mumbo jumbo that athletes sometimes pull, but Ryan Vogelsong’s postgame interview through his tears was sort of kind of moving.

Matt Cain will take the mound tomorrow for Giants, while the Cardinals will counter with Kyle Lohse. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 PM ET.