SAN FRANCISCO — The Pirates went more than two months between games in which they were held scoreless and recorded three hits or fewer.
On this Sunday afternoon, it was the Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong who shut down the Bucs in a 4-0 San Francisco victory. The last time? Matt Cain pitched into the 7th as the Giants beat the Pirates 10-0 in Pittsburgh on June 13.
Once and again for a below-average Pittsburgh offense.
“[Vogelsong] just changed speeds,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It always seemed like where we were looking, or what we were looking for, something else came out of his hand… He played the forward-and-back game: east-to-west, north-to-south.”
Since the former Pirates starter returned from pitching in Japan, he has been steady in the Giants’ rotation: the right-hander owns a 3.33 ERA and 2.4 strikeouts per walk in three seasons since re-joining the San Francisco team with which he made his debut. Vogelsong went three straight months last year pitching all quality starts (16 games).
“Look at the guy’s résumé. He’s pitched big games. He’s won big games,” Hurdle said. “He has re-created himself… He’s put a foot down in the National League.”
Andrew Lambo on Vogelsong: "He didn’t get a lot of mistakes out and over the plate."
— Bill Brink (@Bill_Brink2) August 26, 2013
The Bucs created precious few scoring chances against Vogelsong, getting only one hit from the first 20 plate appearances and a runner into scoring position only twice:
- 3rd Inning: Andrew Lambo recorded the first hit with a leadoff single and got to second base on A.J. Burnett’s sacrifice bunt. Vogelsong struck out Jose Tabata looking at a 90-mph fastball.
- 5th Inning: Lambo worked a two-out walk, the only one Vogelsong allowed. Giants catcher Buster Posey threw Lambo out trying to steal second base.
- 6th Inning: Vogelsong hit leadoff man Jordy Mercer, but Burnett’s bunt got picked up by Posey. The catcher threw out Mercer to start a 2-6-4 double play.
- 7th Inning: Andrew McCutchen, who laced line drives into gloves his first two at-bats, reached second base on an infield single and Pablo Sandoval throwing error. Pedro Alvarez flew out to right field and Russell Martin struck out swinging.
On the Pirates Mound
Pirates starter Burnett tap-danced through several tough situations on his way to allowing only one run in seven innings, including an inning-ending double play with two runners aboard in the 2nd.
The lone Giants’ run against the veteran pitcher in the first seven innings scored by just a few inches. Burnett walked Gregor Blanco with two outs in the 3rd inning, gave up a line-drive single to Brandon Crawford then Posey bounced an RBI single just under the glove of a diving Neil Walker.
1-0 San Francisco.
“We’ve seen Walker be able to make that play,” Hurdle said.
Burnett pitched into more trouble in the 5th via a two-out single, hit-by-pitch and walk, but he got Brandon Belt to fly out deep to center to leave three more Giants runners on base.
Decision Time for Hurdle
It seemed getting seven strong innings (and only one run allowed) from the right-hander would have left well enough alone. Burnett had thrown 107 pitches, just six shy of his season-high.
“It’s a good lineup,” Burnett said. “It was a battle to be able to get that deep.”
So why did Hurdle leave Burnett in to face the strongest part of the Giants’ lineup after his lineup spot did not arrive in the Top 8th?
“It was his game out there. Gave him the ball. I’ve got a lot of confidence in A.J.,” the manager said. “Where we were right there, I figured he would find a way to get out of it. We didn’t.”
He said it. Posey grounded a leadoff single to get reliever Tony Watson warming up. Belt bounced a ball off first baseman Garrett Jones’ glove, though it ricocheted to Burnett to step on first. Hunter Pence hit a ground-ball single that sliced through the shortstop and third baseman.
Pitching coach Ray Searage jogged to the mound instead of the manager. Burnett stayed in.
“We got three ground balls in the 8th inning,” Hurdle said. “One of them, we might have turned into a double play. That didn’t convert.”
One fastball later, Pablo Sandoval blasted a fly ball to AT&T Park’s 421-foot sign in right-center field for a two-run triple. That would finally be all for A.J.
“I’m going to come after you in that situation, and I came after him,” Burnett said. “Decent pitch, pulled his hand in, put a good swing on it.”
The decision did not mean much in the not-so-grand scheme; the Pirates would have lost 1-0 even if Watson came in to pitch a scoreless inning. Still, entering a pennant race and into the playoffs, how long a leash will Burnett receive in tight games?
That answer will come in time, and it could be an October question for the Bucs, as they remain tied with St. Louis for first place in the National League Central. With the series win in San Diego, they concluded a 4-3 road trip (28 runs scored, 20 runs allowed) in two California ballparks that had given previous Pirates teams a difficult time.
“It’s an exciting time for this team,” Burnett said.
Personally I would have liked to hold onto Grossman into the winter and then possibly trade Marte for a better player but that doesn’t mean much now.
And to end this discussion for now, Garrett Jones stinks. Justin Morneau and Kendrys Morales stink too. You just add redundant pieces.It’s pointless.
I wanted to see improvement this year from the Pirates and I got it so far, I do not think they are near done building and do believe everything we get from now on is gravy. I fully expected the Pirates to finish 7 or 8 games out of 1st place this year and I will take anything better, but I would never have sold off the system for one month, I am still not happy about giving Grossman up for Wandy, we could sure use him now.
I really liked Grossman but he was dealt from strength. You can only play three outfielders at a time and if you believe in Marte and Polonco then Grossman was not going to work . Never was a fan of Rodriguez but I have to say when healthy he sure did pitch good for us and the cost was right.
And you guys always sarcastically say wait until 2015… that’s EXACTLY the right thing to do. Anything before then is gravy.
So 2015 rolls around and Polanco/Taillon aren’t the players they are projected to be. What do we do now? Wait until 2016/17 for Meadows and Glasnow? It takes trades, prospects from your systems, and free agents to build a team. Its too bad that this organization only sees developing prospects as the only means of improving the club. At some point Nutting is going to have to start spending some bucks rather than sitting on 20+ million profit.
BJ, you’re doing a pretty poor job of paying attention if you think that “this organization only sees developing prospects as the only means of improving the club.” Martin and Liriano were free agent signings this past offseason. Grilli was pulled off the scrap heap. Melancon, Burnett, and Morton were all acquired thru trades. All of those players mentioned have all played major roles this years…and none of them were prospects.
Washington said wait until 2013. What happened there? Nothing is set in stone. Polonco has a terrible injury Tallion and Cole go down or neither proves to be effective then its wait until 2018. Then we can all reminiscence about 2013.
I’m guessing this is more likely the blip on the screen for the Nats. What do you suggest the Bucs do? Take on contracts for guys like Morneau or Rios who aren’t really that better than what they have? The only thing getting a big contract like Rios would mean is not that you have the “guts” to spend money. Money does not equal wins.
I see no comparison between this years Bucs and last years Nats. The Pirates are a team on the rise and no where near where they need to be maturation wise. As far as a few if’s and but’s. the Pirates had 12 different starting pitchers this year, they lost Walker, Marte, Tabata, Martin had and probably has a bad knee, the Fort went down, Grilli went down, Wandy went down, Burnett went down, next year should be a better year than this year because over the winter they will probably fix the couple of position problems they have and they will not be trading off any of their core in all likely hood and minors should have a couple of key players ready next year. The Nats did not throw the year last year, they just protected one player, if the rest of the team could not get the job done, they just were not good enough. sometimes you have to fact facts, sometimes you are just not good enough and I don’t think the Pirates are good enough yet, but I think they are on the right track and I am willing to wait a little longer. As far as I am concerned the Bucs are a little ahead of schedule.
Spending money on free agents works for nobody. Why did Milwaukee get good? They had Braun, Fielder, Weeks, Escobar, Hart, Lucroy and Gallardo who they brought up. They traded Hardy for Gomez.
Why do they stink now? They traded Escobar, Odrozzi, signed Aramis Ramirez to a HORRIBLE contract, signed Lohse and lost a first round pick… basically the Brewers got good doing what the Pirates are doing now. They stink because they ended up doing what you want the Pirates to do.
I will say that their attendance is higher than ours because the majority of fans would rather see a management style like Melvin has but it will not work for more than a few years in a small market.
This team needs to improve both internally and externally. Internally Marte, Alvarez, Walker have to improve on their offensive games. They need a first baseman and RF. Maybe Polanco is the right fielder, but I doubt he shows an impact until 2015.
Externally they need to add to fill gaps via trade or free agency. Here is where the problem lies. The depth on the 25 man roster is poor. The guys who will bring a sizeable return we shouldn’t trade. So you need to move prospects which we are reluctant to do. Free agency options this year are not good. I don’t see Nutting paying the bucks to get an everday 1st baseman for instance.
So the team will end the losing streak and get to the playoffs, but where do we go from here to take the next step? It requires an owner to up the payroll, and a GM willing to make some moves. I don’t believe Neal or Nutting are up to the task.
Making moves for the sake of it is just…stupid. Flashy doesn’t necessarily get the job done. Huntington just got done signing guys like Liriano and Martin and you say he doesn’t have the guts to make moves? Yeah, Josh Hamilton would have been better.
How do you know we are reluctant to move anyone? the Pirates have never publicly said what they want, what they are reluctant to give up or what the seller wanted for whom. Unless the deal is publicly displayed, we can make all the unproven statements we want, but it does not change the fact that the team you see is the team you got and where that takes us is as far as we are going.
The Pirates don’t spend money just at the last month of the season, they spend money all year round, it is possible they are in negotiations with a couple of their players right now, that would affect spending at this time. Higher priced teams than the Pirates have come out publicly and stated they don’t have the money to make some of the moves they would like to make, teams like Boston and the Angels.
We know very little and assume a lot.
The Cards are weak at 3rd, SS and the bullpen, who have they gone out and brought in?
The Pirates at this point are dancing with the ones that brought them, just like the Reds and Cards.
A rental does not mean getting a guy (Rios) for two years. There were and are guys available for the cost of the remaining salary. We have a team with 60 million in payroll and you seem obsessed with the addition of 2 million. The additional gain could be 4-10 play off games with packed houses. Thats 300,000 thousand fans paying full price and buying all sorts of goodies. Lack of activity is not only a bad baseball move its a bad financial move as well.
Spending $18 million on Alex Rios is bad management plain and simple. You guys talk about spending to spend. Attendance is 14th in the NL. That stinks anyways so I’m not sure why you guys insist on thinking 27,000 is good. Milwaukee is 20 games out and draws better.
One thing we are overlooking. Our park is BUILT to be a smaller venue. Selling out is only low 30’s in terms of crowd. We’d sold out a fairly decent percentage of games since we’ve been playing well. And we have a decent amount of expensive boxes which of course was the reason for the new park, greater revenues from those…..you can’t look at attendance in a vacuum because of those factors, each park isn’t created with the same vision of revenues
The $ price for Morneau’s remaining contract gets a little less every day. By Thursday it’ll be under $3 million. So $2.9 mill and Matt Curry or similar to Twins should get this done.
I do get where Neal’s coming from. A hot month from Jones is way better than what Morneau can deliver. Jones has given Bucs 1 or 2 .900+ OPS months each year, so everyone knows he can do it. But not this year apparenly. And it’s come to the point where Bucs can’t wait for that hot month to come.
Just think, when it does happen and Chase gets called up for September, Greg Brown will be all over calling a 6-3 putout a “neau-neau”.
Joe you are still out of touch. The Pirates are three bats away. None were available at the right price. Getting Alex Rios would have made zero difference.
Define the right price? Too msny prospects or not willing to take on the remaining salary, or even worse pick up somebody with an expiring contract. I agree they need more than one bat, but to sit and do nothing is bad management. Also where in the organization do we find these three bats in the next 2 years or so?
You absolutely nailed it. We were told that if the fans came the Bucs would respond with increased salary. well? The response has been crickets. If we take on a contract we would give up next to nothing in prospects. If we want to soften the blow we have a bunch of decent prospects that will never make it in Pittsburgh if Polonco is what everyone here seems to think he is. There is still time but we need to move. I still think we are at risk with Arizona. I also think there is still an opportunity to win the division and actually get into the real playoffs (not the one game playoff). I
I also would add I don’t think the Pirates are three bats away I think they are a good clean up hitter away (not a great one). That one spot would shift all others around to strengthen the line up from top to bottom. I am stunned that more people are not screaming for GI Jones head. The guy is a butcher in the field can’t hit and he refuses to take walks. He is absolutely killing us yet he plays 5 days a week.
Another pathetic display by the Pirate offense. Fortunately for them nobody else is making a push for the 2nd wildcard. Meanwhile Neal is happy to have winning season, and Nutting is smiling all the way to the bank.
Most of the team is in a major slump. Jones is 1-28 or something. Walker 1-17. Martin 4-31. It’s amazing we had enough timely hitting and good pitching to win 4 games this week. And a huge error by Denorfia.
That was ugly and to compound matters there is no game tomorrow. Lots of times available to overreact, confirm biases, and extrapolate doom from a very small sample. (Did Vogelsong really throw eight scoreless?) Missed opportunity, but what do we know today that we didn’t know yesterday, and what will it tell us about tomorrow?
Just an ugly all around game. One of those days. What is frustrating is that I don’t think Vogelsong was as good as the Pirates made him out to be. He sat outside most of the game and guys were pull happy.