Pirates end West Coast swing with 4-0 loss to Giants
SAN FRANCISCO — In the fifth inning of the Pirates' 4-0 loss to the Giants on Sunday, Ryan Vogelsong jammed Pirates catcher Russell Martin with an inside fastball. Martin popped to short and jogged slowly to first, one instance of frustration and weak contact in an afternoon filled with such examples.
The interesting thing about the pitch was the radar gun reading: 88 mph.
For the third time on the Pirates' final West Coast swing of the season, the club was dominated by a scuffling pitcher who lacked dominant stuff.
Just as the Pirates couldn't take advantage of struggling Ian Kennedy in San Diego, just as Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano failed Saturday to match the Giants' Tim Lincecum, the Pirates were quieted by Vogelsong.
The Giants starter entered with a 2-4 record, a 6.75 ERA and a .303 opponents batting average. The former Pirate allowed just two hits and four baserunners in eight innings as the Pirates were shut out for the ninth time this season.
The Pirates produced a winning road trip (4-3), but there was a sense opportunities were missed. Just days after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle praised the club's offensive approach following eight- and 10-run performances, Sunday's effort was lacking.
“We weren't able to adjust or complicate things for (Vogelsong) very much,” Hurdle said. “One thing you do (against a pitcher with good location) is you split the plate in half. You look out, or you look in, and you stay there. Unfortunately we weren't able to counterpunch today.
“He just changed speed, and it always seemed like what we were looking for or where we were looking, something else came out of his hand.”
A slight dip in run prevention, combined with continued offensive issues, are hampering the Pirates' performance in the second half of the season.
The Pirates are 25-24 since July 1 and return home with a losing record (11-12) in August.
The stretch of .500 baseball has eroded their lead in the NL Central. The Pirates remained tied for the division lead because the Cardinals lost to the Braves, 5-2, on Sunday. The Reds lost to Milwaukee, 3-1, and remain 2½ games back.
“I think we've gone about our preparation the way we've needed,” Hurdle said. “The overall record — we got out of the blocks slow in Colorado, played challenging games in St. Louis — we've rebounded a little bit on this trip. There's nothing we can do about what's behind us. We'll all look forward to getting home.”
Vogelsong induced a half-dozen fly balls, which were batted down by the bay breeze. Few pitches were squared up, and when they were, like Andrew McCutchen's liner in the fourth, the drives were right at a Giants fielder.
Vogelsong's off-speed stuff had good break and location. He froze Martin in the second and Garrett Jones in the eighth for two of his five strikeouts.
A.J. Burnett (6-9) again was a victim of poor run support. Burnett entered the day with the 13th-worst run support in baseball (3.24 runs per start).
Burnett allowed one run — Buster Posey's third-inning RBI single — over the first seven innings. Posey began the eighth with a single. Hunter Pence moved him to third with a single one batter later, and Pablo Sandoval scored both with a triple to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.
“It's a good lineup,” Burnett said. “It was a battle to get that deep.”