PITTSBURGH – After almost five years of playing in Japan, Salt Lake, Lehigh Valley and other spots, simply being announced as a starting pitcher in the majors once again was quite the thrill for Ryan Vogelsong.
"It was a sense of accomplishment for me before the first pitch had even started," he said. "I was fighting it a little bit not to find myself getting too relaxed, you know?"
He settled in just fine.
Vogelsong won while making his first big league start in almost seven years, pitching effectively into the sixth inning against his former team and leading the San Francisco Giants over the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 Thursday.
"Thousands of times," Vogelsong said, "I wondered if i was ever going to pitch in the big leagues again, let alone get a chance to be a starter again and win a game."
Vogelsong (1-0) made his first start since Sept. 29, 2004, when he was with Pittsburgh. He spent three seasons in Japan after last appearing in a game for the Pirates in June 2006, then spent last season playing for the Triple-A teams of the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Angels.
Vogelsong signed a minor league deal with the Giants this past offseason and had his contract purchased from Triple-A Fresno on April 17 when Barry Zito went on the disabled list. Vogelsong had made two relief appearances since, covering 4 2-3 scoreless innings.
"He came into spring training and he opened eyes up right away," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said "The way he was throwing the ball, he could have easily made our club. We just didn't have a spot for him.
"He did a great job. I'm happy for him, proud for him, to get a win in his first start."
The 33-year-old Vogelsong tied a career high by striking out eight in 5 2-3 innings. He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks.
Brian Wilson pitched the ninth for his seventh save. San Francisco had lost five of its previous six.
Aaron Rowand had three RBIs and stole home as part of a double steal. He hit a two-run double during the Giants' four-run third.
Neil Walker had three hits for the Pirates, who have lost three of their four home series this season.
"He did a good job of keeping guys off balance," Walker said of Vogelsong. "I was fortunate enough to hit a couple of barrels on him, but for the most part he was down in the zone and threw a lot of good pitches today."
After a two-out double by Walker in the first that drove in Lyle Overbay, Vogelsong went through a run of retiring 14 of 16 batters before sixth, during which he was lifted after allowing an RBI groundout by Ryan Doumit.
Vogelsong had about 25 family and friends on hand. A native of eastern Pennsylvania, he met his wife in Pittsburgh.
"It feels really good," Vogelsong said. "That was my main focus today was just to go out there today and put up a good start, give us a chance to start swinging the bats and guys came big through for me today."
The Giants rank 13th in the NL in runs and were coming off a shutout loss Wednesday. Their big inning Thursday came while not getting many hard-hit balls during the third off Jeff Karstens (2-1).
Mike Fontenot led off with a single and Eli Whiteside followed by getting hit by a pitch. Vogelsong reached when Karstens unsuccessfully tried to get the lead runner on a bunt, loading the bases.
That set up Rowand's double just inside the third base bag.
"It doesn't matter who gets it," Rowand said, "but as a team when you've been struggling to get big hits, it helps everybody take a deep breath, step back and relax."
With one out and after an intentional walk, Pablo Sandoval grounded to short, but Pittsburgh was unable to turn a double play, so Vogelsong scored.
Rowand made it 4-1 when he came across as part of a double steal with Sandoval. Doumit's throw went into center field on the play — the catcher's poor throw was one of four Pirates errors.
"We got a couple breaks in the big inning, that's what helped us today," Bochy said. "But it's good to get those breaks and get a big number.
"When you're not swinging the bat, you try to think of ways you can create runs."
The Giants' fifth run came in the seventh, an inning in which Pittsburgh committed two errors.
Only two of the five runs charged against Karstens in his 6 2-3 innings were earned.
"We beat ourselves today, Overbay said. "If we are going to be where we want to be, we can't do that kind of stuff."
NOTES: Paid attendance for the three-game series against the reigning World Series champions was 33,357 — although the turnstile count was significantly lower than that. The Pirates haven't drawn as many as 19,000 to a game since the first three games of the season. ... Originally drafted by the Giants, Vogelsong was the primary piece of a trade to get ace Jason Schmidt from Pittsburgh in 2001. ... OF Xavier Paul made his Pittsburgh debut hours after being activated, striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Paul was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week. ... Zito was cleared to put weight on his right foot for the first time in 11 days. He no longer will require crutches or a boot to deal with his foot sprain and could be cleared to resume baseball activity in one to three weeks.