Coming into the game Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a share of the lead in the NL Central Division with their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Cardinals’ loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Pirates had a chance to take the sole possession of first place.
You had to like the Pirates’ chances. A.J. Burnett, the heart and soul of the Pirates’ pitching staff, was taking the mound in this game against a struggling former Bucco, Ryan Vogelsong. Burnett’s stats against the Giants coming into the game were amazing: a 6-2 record with a 1.95 ERA and the Giants’ batting average of .191 against him (Pittsburgh Pirates.com). Looking at these stats would give any Pirates fan reasons to be happy going into the game, but as the saying goes, “that’s why they play the game!”
Burnett pitched a beautiful game going into the 8th inning with six strikeouts, four free passes (one of those being hit by the pitch), and only letting up one run. Vogelsong, however, decided that he wanted to haunt his former team and show why he is a World Series champion, surrendering two hits and one walk with five strikeouts over eight innings.
Burnett and Vogelsong had everything going for them. Pitches were sharp, for the most part, and both were hitting their spots with fastballs and off-speed pitches like they needed to do. The problem in the game is the Pirates loaded their bats on the plane back to Pittsburgh before the game even started. The Giants finally found their bats in the 8th inning with a few ground ball hits and then Pablo Sandoval hit a dagger of a triple right into the heart of the Pirates.
The way the Pirates’ batters were swinging the sticks they could have warmed up the plane and got an early flight home. The Pirates’ offense did it again, wasting another solid start from a starting pitcher. This had to be déjà vu for Burnett, who has had this happen all season to him.
The good news is the Pirates are heading home to face the Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals in the biggest homestand in September in PNC Park history. If the pitching staff can pitch like this during this homestand, it will have the city of Pittsburgh thinking Bucco baseball instead of Pittsburgh Steelers football. Oh wait, before that happens, Pirates, bring your bats to PNC Park; you need those to score runs, just in case you forgot.