The Pirates' game against the Reds was a matchup of a team that seems to have a clear idea of what it's trying to do -- whether it's doing it well is another matter -- against a team that shows no clue about what it's trying to accomplish. The Reds started highly regarded, but struggling, pitching prospect Robert Stephenson. The Pirates, with a bunch of promising young pitchers sitting around, went with their own struggling starter, 39-year-old, soon-to-be-ex-Pirate Ryan Vogelsong. Maybe the differing approach comes from the fact that the Reds have been eliminated from the wild card race while the Pirates haven't. Maybe the Pirates are seeking clarity by starting a guy who's been doing his best to remove that last remaining, mathematical technicality. Or maybe their decisions are simply becoming more incomprehensible every day. Fortunately, the rebuilding Reds intervened.
After a slight delay, the Pirates seemed to be picking up where they left off with their blowout win the previous night. With one out, Josh Bell walked and scored on a double by Andrew McCutchen. Gregory Polanco then lined a changeup over the fence in right for his 22nd homerun, making it 3-0.
Vogelsong, though, quickly set about giving the lead back. Three sharply struck, two-out hits in the bottom of the first produced one Reds' run. In the second, Vogelsong walked the leadoff hitter and then gave up a longball to backup catcher and former Pirate Ramon Cabrera.
The Pirates went ahead again in the fifth, but not without a reminder of their maddening inability to take advantage of opportunities. Hurdle let Vogelsong bat to open the inning, just because, but John Jaso doubled, Bell singled and McCutchen walked to load the bases with one out. Polanco popped out, but Stephenson helpfully plunked Jung-ho Kang for the second time (the first had to survive a replay challenge). Sean Rodriguez, whom Stephenson repeatedly victimized with curveballs, struck out to end the threat.
Vogelsong predictably blew the lead in just three batters. Two line singles sandwiched around a bunt tied the score. Vogelsong had a chance to get out of the inning when the next line drive went at somebody, but on the next batter he dropped Jaso's throw at first to prolong the inning. That ended Vogelsong's night. He now has a 10.19 ERA in his last four starts and his very brief stretch of effectiveness after returning from injury seems a distant memory. Lefty Zach Phillips -- whose presence on the team makes little more sense than Vogelsong's -- came in to LOOGify the left-handed Scott Schebler, but Schebler lined a two-run triple just out of McCutchen's reach to make it 6-4 Reds.
Tyler Glasnow followed Phillips with a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth and Kang, apparently annoyed by then, tied the game in the seventh with a two-run blast to center. The HR was his 19th in the equivalent of less than half a season's ABs. With the game tied, Hurdle naturally removed Glasnow because he's, you know, a rookie and the game was, you know, tied. Thankfully, the Pirates got three more dominant innings of relief from Juan Nicasio, Felipe Rivero (throwing an upper-90s fastball, lower-90s changeup, and mid-80s slider) and Antonio Bastardo.
Late-season comedy then intervened as Kang opened the tenth inning with a walk (his second walk and fifth time on base) and Rodriguez followed a failed bunt attempt with an infield hit. Francisco Cervelli also tried to sacrifice, but was called safe at first, a call that stood after another replay challenge. That loaded the bases, always a dangerous situation for the Pirates. Jordy Mercer, though, brought in a run with a single. Jason Rogers hit into what was originally ruled a double play by way of home, but was called safe after the Pirates' challenge succeeded. David Freese then singled past the pitcher to drive in a pair of runs. Tony Watson raised alarms by giving up some random AAAA guy's first major league HR to lead off the bottom half, but retired the next three hitters to end it.