Ryan Vogelsong Has Another Good Start, But Bats Were Quiet in Pirates Loss

PITTSBURGH — Ryan Vogelsong hasn’t had great luck in 2016. Signed to be a starting pitcher, he got bumped to the bullpen because of a strong Spring Training by fellow Pirates pitcher Juan Nicasio. Asked to make a start, he was hit in the face by a pitch, which sidelined him for over two months. In his first start back from the disabled list, he threw six innings of one-run ball, but got a no decision in the Pirates’ loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Making his second start Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres, Vogelsong was again impressive, giving up just three hits and no earned runs in six innings while striking out five, but again, the Pirates couldn’t give him any run support and lost 4-0.

The only damage came in the second inning, when a pair of errors and two hits allowed the Padres to slash across two unearned runs. Vogelsong was otherwise unhittable, throwing four straight no-hit innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

In his four starts this season, Vogelsong now holds a 0.95 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP and an 8.53 K/9. That’s an impressive stat line for any pitcher, let alone a 39-year old with two of the starts following major reconstructive surgery.

“If there’s a blessing in disguise of getting hit, it’s the fact that I got to deal with Ray [Searage] every day for two months,” Vogelsong said. “I just got to start from ground zero when we were playing catch on the rehab process and just really starting over and trying to get rid of some of the bad habits that I had gotten into. Those are sometimes not easy things to do. We obviously had the time to do it. He gets pulled in a bunch of different directions on a daily basis trying to help everybody, so to get that much time with him, it was kind of a blessing.”

One of the things that Vogelsong has noticed specifically is an increased feel for his cutter, a pitch that was inconsistent for him at times in the early part of the season.

“I would say there were times early, before I got hurt, that it was good, then I’d go out there the next time and it wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” he said. “I think that’s a byproduct of what [Searage] and I have been pounding on for two months. Everything is better than it was before. I was walking too many guys before and the command is better. It’s allowed me to pound the strike zone with better pitches, get more ground balls and not put so many guys on base with a free pass.”

Vogelsong walked one batter, and has just two walks on the season as a starter. His overall numbers — he has a 2.67 ERA on the season — make it clear he’s performed better in a starting role.

“There’s no secret that I feel more comfortable (starting),” he said. “At the same time, I feel that I can pitch out of the bullpen, too, it’s just not as comfortable. I feel, for some reason, when I start, that my stuff is better. I don’t know if that’s being able to take my time and prepare for a game the way I want to. I just felt like out of the bullpen it was hit or miss. It was either really good or not so good. I just feel like starting, I’ve had way more consistent stuff.”


Catcher Francisco Cervelli left the game in the fifth inning with left wrist discomfort. Eric Fryer replaced him. The Pirates had no update on his condition after the game.


Travis Jankowski made a rare straight steal of home plate against Fryer and reliever Antonio Bastardo in the eighth inning.

It’s the second time this season Jankowski has stolen home plate.

“We’re all aware of [his history],” Hurdle said. “We talked about it. We shared the replay. A good throw to home gets him out. … Kang yelled when he broke. We yelled from the dugout when he broke.

“If the pitcher catches it and throws the ball home clear, he’s out. It’s not as if it caught us off guard, we just didn’t execute the play and we were well aware of the fact that they’ve run it a number of times. We didn’t execute.”

Bastardo agreed that the responsibility for keeping Jankowski put was his.

“I just made a bad throw,” he said. “I think it’s the first one, so I got really surprised. As soon as I caught the ball, I tried to get rid of it, I just should have made a good throw instead of throwing the ball in the dirt.”

It was a first for Fryer behind he plate, as well.

“I throw the ball pretty firm back to the pitcher, so I’m guessing the with the shift, after seeing where we were playing, he was off by a lot, so he was able to get a pretty big jump to the plate,” Fryer said.


Edwin Jackson and two relievers combined to two-hit the Pirates on a night where nothing was working offensively. Jackson relied on his slider, cutter and fastball to keep the Pirates off-balance.

“It’s a hard slider to hit if you look at the angle, the depth and the tilt,” Hurdle said. “The slider was problematic for us tonight. It’s an easy call to say [we should have chased less], but you get in the box — and I’ve been that guy — he pitched as good of a game as I’ve ever seen him pitch and that’s about the fifth or sixth different uniform I’ve seen him in. … It was his night. We weren’t able to throw much back at him.”

Jordy Mercer (1 for 3) and Andrew McCutchen (1 for 4) had the only hits.


Jameson Taillon will try to earn a series win in the mid-day finale Thursday afternoon. He’ll face Christian Friedrich.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 11, 2016 10:38 am

    It is rather shocking how much the major league team and the farm system have been weakened in one season…especially the major league team. 98 wins last year, we’ll be fortunate to get 81 this season – that is a huge drop.
    There are a few players who have performed well below expectations and they share in the blame – McCutchen, Liriano. Nicasio (although he was miscast as a starter for nearly 3 months), Cervelli, Cole, Harrison, and Kang. I did not include the likes of Jaso, Locke, Niese because I didn’t expect much from any of them – there was no reason to.
    Only Mercer, Marte, Melancon, and Polanco performed at a high, or nearly high level, all season. SRod, Joyce, and Freese were all pleasant surprises….
    The FO bears the brunt of the blame, because they made some very poor decisions before and during the season – most involving the pitching staff. But the stubborn decision to keep Kang and Jaso in the lineup on a consistent basis defies logic.

    • Yep, and every decision you’ve ever made has been the right one, I’m sure.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        August 11, 2016 12:24 pm

        That was a dumb response…but I did call it in regards to the starting rotation BEFORE the season started….and I wasn’t alone….

        • I didn’t like the rotation before the season started either, but I understood NH’s thinking. The theory was that Cole and Liriano would carry the load until Taillon and Glasnow were ready, and the offense would cover for the inefficiencies of Locke and Nicasio/Vogelsong in the meantime. NH gambled and lost on Niese. It happens. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the struggles of this team on “poor decisions” by the front office. To me the brunt of the blame falls on Cutch and the since departed Liriano, along with a few others who have been underwhelming.

    • Everyone knows 98 was way too high. Teams don’t replicate 98 wins in general, let alone when their best player becomes a bad player, no matter what the FO does.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 11, 2016 10:28 am

    Frazier needs to be playing more – put him at third base and sit Kang – who is hurting the team with his lack of hitting and sub par fielding….Diaz needs to be called up to, to take Fryer’s place – Fryer doesn’t have a future with this team beyond 2016, so why is he getting the valuable PT? I don’t get that kind of decision-making….but then again…..its NH.

    • I’m making a fairly obvious assumption that NH wants Diaz to play every day for a while. He DID miss the first three months of the season if you recall.

  • Corey Freeman
    August 11, 2016 10:12 am

    It’s about time they bench McCutchen for an extended period of time, let Joyce play everyday. Kang is playing his way out of starting with the amount of errors he is making. Frazier also needs to get some more playing time, he isn’t afraid of the good pitchers. He has hits off Kershaw and Scherzer. And the jaso experiment is about up, it’s time to bring Bell up and let him try and spark the offense a little. Jaso would be a nice bench bat to have, Bell is our future at 1st base though and he has earned it.

  • Before I forget………….

    Is there a more under appreciated player on this team than Jordy Mercer?

    It is time for the Pirates to pack Kang away for the season via an all expense paid holiday to Victory Field. The guy looks distracted to the point of nonchalance. Let’s put someone out there who wants to play.

    It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were all worried about having only one lefty in the bullpen, resulting in the Kyle Lobstein administration. Look at us now with the firm of Bombo, Bastardo, Watson and Locke.

    Isn’t it time that someone brings up the fact that Clint Hurdle just isn’t a very good game manager?

    Greg Brown has become at least as pleasing to listen to as his mentor, Lanny Frattere was. His banter with Bob Walk over a face planted nacho plate was priceless.

    Should we be worried about Francisco Cervelli. At least we have plenty of catching depth in the minors with Diaz and Mc Gu….. better scratch that.

    Until I have something better to say……..

    • Jordy Mercer may be the most consistent player the
      Pirates have with Polonco 2nd.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      August 11, 2016 10:30 am

      I agree with nomination – Mercer has been solid all season long – hitting, fielding, etc. Nothing flashy, but just a solid all around performance. Kind of like a JJ Hardy type….
      Then, there are guys like Cervelli, McCutchen, Kang, Harrison, Jaso who have all hurt this team with sub par production.

  • The Pirates need a new hitting coach. You would think that with Hurdle being a former hitting coach that this would be a very good hitting team but they stink especially with RISP.

  • Bucs should sign Vogey to a one year deal next year

    • Part of me, just a part of me thinks that may just be a good idea. That is unless Nova becomes a good quality reclamation project the rest of this season and is willing to come back on a one year deal. I feel we could use just one veteran guy in that starting rotation to go along with the 3 rookies plus a young Cole. Vogey just seems to have more of that AJ type personality that if one of the young guys needs advice he will listen. So its not a completely bad idea.

    • No.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      August 11, 2016 10:32 am

      Despite his recent performances, I would say no – unless its for a bullpen/spot starter role….we don’t need a nearly 40 year old starting pitcher blocking guys like Glasnow, Kingham, Brault, Kuhl, etc.

  • I think Vogey is doing well. Hopefully he can mentor the younger pitchers some during the rest of the season.

  • This has to be a tough year for Searage, at least in terms of results from the starting five. So it’s especially nice to see Vogelsong sing his praises here.

    It does make you wonder if Niese might have been better off in the long run with a similar 8 weeks of instruction.

  • Another disappointing loss, particularly from an offensive standpoint. Uh oh, defensively too. A hurried throw from Bastardo added insult to injury. These guys look to be out of
    synch, disjointed. Unfortunately, there are too many problem areas for a quick fix.

    Thankfully the pitching is improved, but after 4 months of the season has passed it’s too little too late. The best outfield in baseball has only been running at 2/3 this season. First base has been a disaster. Kang needs time off. Cervelli and Stewart are gamers, but injuries at their critical positions have shown it’s not a position of strength as advocated by NH.

    When four of the eight posiitions are underperforming, you’ve got problems.

    • When a Catcher says “I guess” then it is obvious he did not look at the runner at all, and the throw from Bastardo was no different than 20-25 pitches a Catcher sees every games, and catches pretty easily. Prior to that, the play Fryer made on the throw from Marte when the 3rd run scored was a pretty poor tag attempt.

      But, it is hard to win when you score 0 runs on two hits. This has happened too often, and yet we hear about the average number of runs scored. So far in 2016 the Pirates have scored 2 runs or less in 33 games and their record in those games is 4 – 29.

      Last year in MLB the Pirates and Marlins finished 8th and 9th in Team Batting Average at .260. I looked earlier this week and the Marlins were up around .272 while the Pirates were down around .258. Can a new Hitting Coach have that much influence? CH and NH better wake up. How about taking a look at some of the best hitting coaches in MLB?

      • Not an original by me, but someone posted elsewhere that this was the Slumber Company.

      • Yeah like Barry Bonds?

      • So where do CH and NH normally slot into the batting order since it’s their fault the team isn’t hitting? Blaming them for the struggles of the players doesn’t fix the problem. These are professionals. Changing batting coaches isn’t a sure fired way to improve hitting. Signing better hitters is the only way to do that. That part is on NH, but when normally good hitters hit rough times, that’s on the players. I’ve never understood the idea that when players do well, it’s all on them, but when they do poorly, it magically becomes the fault of everyone but the player.

    • Yeah the pitching has gotten much better but the hitting is in the toilet now.

    • How many losses have you watched that weren’t disappointing? It’s amazing how cyclical the game is. Early in the year, the offense was great save for McCutchen and the pitching was a nightmare. Now the pitching is improving and the bats are silent. The idea that 4 of 8 positions are under performing might not be that alarming. It’s called regression. There is a chance that they will get hot again on the offensive side of the ball. I know it’s difficult but overreaction isn’t the answer here.

  • An Average team right where they belong. Let’s hope for a winning record at this point.

    I think we have seen some progress in the form of the prospects given the chance to be regulars. However, doesn’t it feel like this team is a VERY long way from being a true championship contender? I’m serious! It just feels that way.

    I said that I believe that the true window to win a championship starts in 2018 after our second wave of prospects get acclimated to the big league game and start producing at a consistent level. But I’m now starting to second guess myself. I can’t help it. The moves made at the deadline scream total concern as a fan.

    • If you believe in baseruns, then Pirates are only 9th best team in NL.

      And they’re playing like it.

      Btw, where have all the Vogelsong haters gone?

      • They’re still complaining about the Pirates being cheap, and taking secret calls from Dave littlefield late at night.

      • I’m still here and I still think it’s a waste to have him on this team – sorry.

        Glad he’s pitching well and I wish the team around him played better, but at no point since his signing have I seen the point of it.

  • “Bats were quiet” when they collected a total of 2 hits is an understatement.

    The regression by the team and the organisation that has occurred this year has been painful to observe, even from Australia!

    One can only hope that they will wake up and make changes. Will they?

  • HartHighPirate
    August 11, 2016 1:21 am

    It was hopeless watching the game, a no-hitter for four plus innings. Pirates only getting two hits. San Diego looked far superior throughout the game. The steal of home was a disgrace as were the errors. Pirates will soon make the trip west to play LAD and SF. They might well be humiliated and eventually end below .500 at season end.
    Attendance will dwindle. Even the canines will refuse to attend.

    • Hard to believe what has happened to a team that posted 98 wins last year. 30 minutes of online research on player performance makes a very formidable case that the GM had a very bad year. Start with Jay Happ and Neil Walker decisions, move to Harrison, Jaso, Niese and Locke.
      There is of course a salary dump or refusal to pay market rates component or to much of this. Walker, Morton, Melancon, Liriano, Happ, Bastardo, Blanton.
      No performance bonus for you this year Neal, sorry.

      • I think the only people that he outright refused to pay market rate on was Happ and Blanton. Couldn’t it be argued that through arbitration, we paid market rate on Walker and Melancon. We signed Morton and Liriano to FA deals in the past as well. That was their market rate that we paid for multiple years. And honestly, I didn’t mind seeing Morton go. He wasnt holding up his end of the deal, moving him was smart. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we currently paying Bastardos market rate?

        They idea that they haven’t paid isn’t exactly a fair one. They have paid. I think the problem is that they’ve quit paying too early. We struggle for the first time in 4 years and we immediately dump two of our biggest contracts on mediocre returns. That is wrong. We should’ve looked to bolster the product we had, not dump guys that helped carry us to multiple playoff appearances.

        And Walker is a completely different scenario than these others. You can tell that things were getting personal between him and the front office. That wasn’t a salary dump, that was getting whatever you could for a player that would’ve left for nothing. It’s not the Pirates fault that the market for what is a largely average 2B with back problems isn’t a lucrative one

        • Thoughtful response. Yes…..you’ve picked up on my point and expanded. This team was on a 16-8 run when Neal gave up and dumped the Melancon and Liriano contracts. He refused to pay market on Happ that turns out to be a steal for this year. 16-3!
          Walker has outperformed Harrison by a wide margin, and now we are stuck with a bad contract on Harrison.
          Morton was widely recognized as a salary dump, whether we like Charlie or not.
          The point I am making is that bad personnel decisions were made, money was allocated to the wrong people, and then “financial flexibility” took over with a decision to tank the season.
          The apologists simply cannot deny the results before and after the purge began with the Melancon trade

          • Hindsight is 20/20. I can’t deny that Happ and Blanton were poor decisions. It was clear that Happs short time in Pittsburgh was working for him. Blanton had improved too. I would’ve preferred that we signed both of them instead of bringing in Neise and Nicasio. But that’s the risk. You let guys go, and then their performance tells you how smart or dumb you were at the time. It’s the same with the guys you choose to sign as well. The Walker we knew didn’t set a very high bar when he was here. Harrison only had to be an average 2B and we wouldve lost nothing in letting Walker walk. Hindsight shows us that Harrison is most likely a one year wonder. No patience, little power, but we couldn’t be sure of that at the time of the Walker trade.

            Dont get me wrong. I hated almost all of the trades we made this year. Like literally all of them. I am in no way an apologist. But playing Monday morning QB doesn’t make you right. For all we know, Harrison, Rivero, Bastardo and Nova get white hot and sparks a postseason berth and your comment looks terribly inaccurate

            • Moose
              I will buy you dinner if Harrison, Rivero, Basterdo and Nova all get white hot and spark a postseason berth…..and I’ll be happy to do so.