What do the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves have in common?
This isn’t a trick question, and there isn’t punchline — unless you consider the Pittsburgh Pirates (53-53) one for losing to both during this road trip, a fact secured with the team’s 5-2 loss Thursday night to the Braves.
It’s a shame because Ryan Vogelsong pitched his heart out.
The fact that Vogelsong even was on a Major League mound is beyond commendable. In late May, while in the batter’s box, Vogelsong was hit in the face by a fastball. He was carted off the field, and he had to get surgery for facial fractures. He worried he may never have one of his eyes again, yet, Thursday night, he set down the first six hitters and the last 11 Braves hitters he faced.
Vogelsong threw six innings, allowing one run in the process. He received handshakes and hugs from each and every person in the visiting dugout.
This good feeling won’t wear off, even if the team gave this game away. And that rests largely on John Jaso’s shoulders. What he did was inexcusable.
For those who didn’t see it, Jaso, who came in as a pinch-hitter, broke his bat in the seventh inning and didn’t run down the line, allowing for one of the easiest double plays of all-time. After the game, Jaso said he thought the ball went foul. Regardless of whether that’s true or if he’s trying to escape an embarrassing situation, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle clearly wasn’t pleased with Jaso’s effort or, in this case, complete lack thereof.
Former Pirates closer and Root Sports analyst Kent Tekulve also wasn’t happy with what he saw from Jaso.
“There should not be one person on this team who talks to John Jaso tonight, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for that,” Tekulve said on the Root Sports postgame show.
But, as bad as what Jaso did was, third baseman Jung Ho Kang may have done something worse.
Pittsburgh reliever Felipe Rivero clearly didn’t have his best stuff Thursday, but the Braves essentially gave him an out. Atlanta’s Adonis Garcia was attempting to steal third base, and the Pirates read the play perfectly. Rivero made a chest-high toss to Kang, who, quite simply, dropped the ball.
As luck would have, it Garcia scored.
Now, the Pirates find themselves once again at .500.
Just a few years ago, this was great. After so many rough seasons, being mediocre was a goal. Now, even calling the Pirates “mediocre” after this stretch may be a compliment.
Next up for the Pirates are the Cincinnati Reds, who’ve caught fire, winning five of their past seven games.
While the Reds and Pirates frequently are involved in physical series, this may be just what the doctor ordered to force Pittsburgh to show some signs of life. If the Pirates don’t figure some things out, they’ll suffer yet another disappointing loss. Too many disappointing losses will be devastating for this team.
This is a team that’s frustrated and a fan base that’s confused.
If the Pirates want to stay relevant in the wild card chase and keep their playoff hopes alive, something needs to change. And it needs to change now.
Image credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images