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MIN@SF: Vogelsong dominant through seven solid frames

SAN FRANCISCO -- A year ago, Ryan Vogelsong was performing at the Triple-A level.

Now, he's emerging as a candidate for the All-Star Game and figuratively asking distinguished Giants pitchers of the past to step aside.

Sustaining a combination of consistency and mastery rarely matched in the Giants' West Coast history, Vogelsong limited the Minnesota Twins to their lone run and four hits in seven innings Wednesday night to help San Francisco end its season-high five-game losing streak with a 5-1 triumph.

With all-time home run leader Barry Bonds in attendance at AT&T Park, Eli Whiteside generated most of the Giants' offense. The No. 8 hitter drove in San Francisco's first three runs with a second-inning triple, good for two runs, and a sixth-inning RBI single. Aubrey Huff's seventh-inning RBI single and an unearned run in the eighth gave the Giants an unfamiliar cushion, given the nine runs they mustered during their losing streak.

Nothing was unfamiliar about Vogelsong's excellence. He has allowed two runs or fewer in nine consecutive starts, one short of the San Francisco-era record set by Juan Marichal in 1966. Jason Schmidt (2006) and Bill Swift (1992) also maintained such nine-game streaks.

"I keep saying it's just mental," said Vogelsong, referring to his remarkable metamorphosis from baseball vagabond to pitching staff savior. "I'm able to focus and concentrate in situations where I couldn't before."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy also will have to engage in deep concentration if Vogelsong maintains his effectiveness. As the National League's manager in the July 12 All-Star Game at Phoenix, Bochy will have a say in selecting pitchers and reserves. With a 1.86 ERA, which would qualify him for the Major League lead (less than .0001 lower than the ERA owned by Boston's Josh Beckett) if he had pitched 1 1/3 more innings, Vogelsong would certainly be deserving.

"He's going to get really strong consideration," Bochy said. "We have some time here and I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. This guy's pitched great. That's how well he's thrown, to have his name mentioned. ... I will say, the guy's done everything he can do to go there at this point."

Vogelsong sounded humbled at the mention of the All-Star Game.

"That would be amazing, especially with the path I've been on," said the right-hander, who possesses a 15-23 career big league record. "An All-Star team on the Major League level has never been anywhere close to a chance for me."

Facing the Twins, winners of eight consecutive games, Vogelsong's priority was to avoid the shellacking that Madison Bumgarner endured in Tuesday's series opener and provide rest for the bullpen that worked 8 2/3 innings.

"Obviously, I knew we were taxed and I needed to stay in the game as long as I could," Vogelsong (5-1) said.

Vogelsong accomplished that by staging a clinic on pitching to contact while retiring the first 12 Twins batters. Michael Cuddyer provided the only scare by flying out to deep center field leading off the second inning. Vogelsong recorded just one strikeout in this span, slipping a called third strike past Joe Mauer to end the fourth inning.

Though Minnesota broke through in the seventh with a run, Vogelsong still excelled. Having recorded just one strikeout in the preceding six innings, Vogelsong fanned Danny Valencia on three pitches and darted a called third strike past Luke Hughes after Cuddyer and Delmon Young singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Tsuyoshi Nishioka tapped a somewhat challenging grounder to shortstop that the onrushing Brandon Crawford played off the heel of his glove, allowing Cuddyer to score. Initially ruled an error, the play was changed to an infield hit. Vogelsong escaped by coaxing pinch-hitter Matt Tolbert's fly to center.

"The guy was pretty nasty," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Vogelsong. "He had a good two-seamer going, he's throwing 92 [mph] and he's painting the outside corner. When you started trying to sit on that thing, he was throwing some nice breaking balls and he had a good changeup, too. When you have a good mix like that, plus you're throwing gas and down at the knee, that's pretty tough. He made it tough on us."

So did Whiteside, who capitalized as a little luck helped the Giants open the scoring in the second inning off Twins starter Nick Blackburn (6-5). With one out and Cody Ross on first base via a leadoff bloop single, shortstop Nishioka made a nice diving stop on Crawford's grounder up the middle and flipped the ball to second baseman Alexi Casilla to start a possible inning-ending double play. But Casilla dropped the relay as Ross slid into the bag, resulting in an error that left both runners safe. Ross and Crawford both scored on Whiteside's triple to the right-center-field gap.

"We haven't had a hit like that in a while," Bochy said.

Whiteside resumed his binge in the sixth inning by singling home Nate Schierholtz, who lined a one-out double off Blackburn.

Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand, who was hit on the left arm by a Blackburn pitch in the second inning, played the rest of the game but required postgame X-rays. Results were not immediately available. Comments