Cardinals 6, Giants 3: It was ALMOST a good day for Vogelsong, Giants

San Francisco Giants' Ryan Vogelsong, center, walks off the mound as he is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy (15) during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong, center, walks off the mound as he is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy (15) during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sabermetricians will say Ryan Vogelsong had a bad outing Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

And when you look at the final statistics, it would be hard to argue.

5.1 innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts.

But if you actually sat and watched the game, you’d say Vogelsong pitched well and had a good game … well, almost.

For the first four innings, the Cardinals were not making much solid contact against Vogelsong. Yet, St. Louis had a run on the board.

Vogelsong gave up the first earned run by a Giants starter this season in the first inning. The rally was fueled by two hits — Matt Carpenter’s swining bunt and Carlos Beltran’s two-out looper to right.

After Beltran’s single, Vogelsong would set down 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced.

Then came the most unfortunate fifth inning.

It started with Pete Kozma’s grounder into the hole at short that Brandon Crawford was able to glove. But Brandon Belt was unable to handle Crawford’s short-hopped throw to first, and Kozma was safe on an infield single.

After Kozma advanced to second, then third on a pair of outs — and then Carpenter walked — Vogelsong was in position to get out of the jam when he threw an 0-1 curverball to Matt Holliday. Holliday got out in front of the pitch, but was able to put the bat on the ball and hit a perfect seeing-eye grounder into left field to tie the game at 2-2.

Vogelsong may have escaped the damage right there when Allen Craig hit a sharp grounder between third and short. Pablo Sandoval made a diving smother of the ball, but could not come up with the ball cleanly to record an out.

What made the play even more unfortunate for Vogey and the Giants is that if Sandoval had let the ball go past him, Crawford was in position to field the ball cleanly and throw out Craig.

Instead, the bases were loaded. Then Beltran followed with a clean, two-run single to right to make it 4-2.

The bad luck didn’t end there for the Giants. Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, it looked like they were ready to mount a rally when Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt drew one-out walks. Joaquin Arias was called on to hit for Gregor Blanco. Arias then hit a liner to the right side of the infield that first baseman Craig was able to snare and turn into a inning-ending double play.

“A step here or there and we’re talking about a totally different ballgame,” Vogelsong said. “I felt I was forcing the ball early, trying to make it do stuff instead of jut letting it come out. The middle innings got better. I didn’t feel I threw the ball all that terribly.”

And he didn’t. But that’s baseball sometimes.

The end result was a loss that snapped the Giants’ three-game winning streak. It also snapped a seven-game winning streak of meaningful games for the Giants at AT&T Park that dated back to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

POWER FROM PENCE AND PANDA: Last season, the Giants hit the fewest home runs in the majors. This season, so far, they have hit four home runs, tying them for 16th in the majors. All four have come off the bats of Pence and Sandoval. The duo hit homers in Wednesday’s win over the Dodgers, and both connected again on Saturday. Pence is hitting .294 so far, and Sandoval is hitting .274. Plus, the Panda said he still feels a little lost at the plate after missing time late in spring training with a sore elbow.

WHO IS THIS GUY IMPERSONATING MARCO SCUTARO? Marco Scutaro went 1 for 4 Saturday, raising his average to .105. At least we think it’s Marco Scutaro. It looks like Scutaro. But the Scutaro we know struck out swinging only five times in 2012 after joining the Giants. He’s already struck out swinging twice in five games this season, including with the bases loaded and one out on Friday. On Saturday, he did something else strange. Last year, Scutaro swung at the first pitch on 13 percent of the time while playing for the Giants. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, a runner on first and trailing by three runs, Scutaro swung at the first pitch and flied to right to end the game. Who IS this guy?

GOOD THINGS FOR BRANDON BELT? It’s been a rough week for Brandon Belt. First he looks bad against Clayton Kershaw in the season opener in LA. Then he gets food poisoning, which sidelined him for two games and caused him to loose 11 pounds. After an 0-for-4 day on Friday, Belt went 0-for-3 with walk on Saturday, leaving him 0 for 10 on the season. But two of hits outs on Saturday were loud outs, a liner to center in the second and a rope to first in the fourth. After fanning twice against Kershaw on Monday, Belt hasn’t fanned in his two games this weekend. Good things could be on the way for Belt.

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