As Jerry Crasnick writes, there had been some speculation that Madison Bumgarner would start Game 4, but that was ended after Game 3 when Bruce Bochy said Ryan Vogelsong was still the Game 4 starter and Bumgarner denied that he asked to start the game. So we'll get Jason Vargas for the Royals and Vogelsong for the Giants.
Vargas is your prototypical finesse lefty, a guy with a mediocre fastball who relies on changing speeds. After one year with the Angels after four with the Mariners, he signed with the Royals as a free agent and put up a typical Vargas type of season. He went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA. In his five seasons as a full-time starter, his ERA has ranged from 3.71 to 4.25, making him one of baseball's most consistent starters. As a fly-ball guy -- he had the 11th-lowest ground ball rate among qualified starters this season -- Vargas also has been fortunate to play in Seattle, Anaheim and Kansas City, all tough home run parks. Needless to say, having that Kansas City outfield defense behind him helps, as well.
Vargas did cut his walk rate this year from 7.1 percent to a career-low 5.2 percent, so he rarely beats himself, and he actually had a better ERA on the road than in Kansas City in the regular season, 2.73 compared to 4.53. He doesn't have a big platoon split -- .259/.307/.415 versus righties, .264/.300/.363 versus lefties -- and gets to turn Pablo Sandoval around to his weaker right side.
Vargas' fastball averages 87.3 mph, topping out at 90. He'll throw a four-seamer and a two-seamer, and he has to pound the corners to succeed. He still throws his fastball nearly 60 percent of the time. His changeup is the pitch he goes to a lot with two strikes, as 86 of his 136 strikeouts have come with that pitch. As with his fastball, it's all about locating it on the corner -- or, better yet, off the corner -- and getting batters to chase:
Opponents have hit .205/.229/.327 against the changeup, so don't be surprised if the Giants look to attack the fastball early in the count, especially aggressive swingers such as Sandoval and Hunter Pence. Buster Posey also killed slow fastballs during the season, slugging .632 against fastballs 90 mph or slower. Vargas also has a curveball he throws about 12 percent of the time, but it's his worst pitch, as batters have hit .317 against it.
The interesting thing to watch is how deep into the game Vargas will be able to go. Kelvin Herrera threw 27 pitches in Game 3 after throwing 32 in Game 2. Yes, there was a day off in there, but Ned Yost might not have the luxury of using Herrera for four or five outs as he did in those two games. No Royals starter has gotten through six innings since James Shields did it in Game 3 of the division series -- that's seven games in a row in which Yost went to his bullpen in the sixth inning. So, there's a good bet you'll see Jason Frasor and Brandon Finnegan in this game to bridge the innings to Wade Davis and Greg Holland if the Royals are leading.
Vogelsong, like Vargas, doesn't generate a ton of ground balls -- he had the 12th-lowest ground ball rate among qualified starters. Bochy indicated after Game 3 that Juan Perez would start in left field. That's partly to remove Travis Ishikawa against the left-handed starter, but it also upgrades the Giants' defense. He has a 2.16 ERA in six career postseason starts, although he lasted just three innings against the Cardinals in his last outing.
He throws a four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter, curveball and changeup. Like Vargas, his fastball velocity is below average, with an average velocity of 90.4. But he can run it up to 94 and, in the postseason, seems to reach back for a little extra. Against the Nationals, he was throwing 93-94 consistently the first two or three innings and had his highest average fastball velocity of the season. Against the Cardinals, he wasn't throwing quite as hard but still had his second-highest average velocity of the season.
He throws his fastball about 50 percent of the time, and a key will be how he does with it against Kansas City's left-handed hitters. Lefties have hit .313/.360/.485 against it. He tries to keep it away as much as possible:
Here's how Kansas City's left-handed power threats have fared against outside fastballs from right-handers:
Alex Gordon: .247/.359/.435
Eric Hosmer: .324/.432/.471
Mike Moustakas: .146/.247/.195
Hosmer has just one home run but is effective at going the other way. Moustakas basically tries to pull everything and is essentially useless against outside fastballs.
The interesting thing about Vogelsong is that he often works backward. With two strikes, most starters go to their off-speed pitches as their primary wipeout pitches, but 118 of Vogelsong's 156 strikeouts have come with his fastball or cutter.
As with the Royals, watch that sixth inning. Jake Peavy took a 2-2 tie into the sixth inning in Game 2, having retired 10 in a row, but the first two batters reached and the Royals went on to score five runs. Tim Hudson trailed 1-0 entering the sixth inning in Game 3, having retired 11 in a row, but couldn't get out of the inning as the Royals scored twice.
Vogelsong isn't a guy who goes deep into the games as is, so you have to think we'll see Yusmeiro Petit in this game, given that he hasn't pitched yet in the series.