PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates are running out of time. It may already be too late.
Ryan Vogelsong pitched four shaky innings in Pittsburgh’s 8-0 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, closing a disappointing four-game set against the last-place Reds. The Pirates have dropped 11 of 13 overall to fall off the pace in the NL wild-card race.
After Cincinnati got to Vogelsong (3-5) for five runs in the second on its way to a big lead, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle emptied his extensive bench, giving playing time to some younger and little-used players. But Hurdle insisted he isn’t throwing in the towel.
“Not yet. Not for me,” he said. “My vision is to get us playing better. That’s my thought. I’m not going to walk out of here with anything other than knowing I have a job to do. Negative emotions, I don’t carry them at all. Frustration isn’t going to help me do what I need to do to get those men motivated and continue to play. Discouragement, I’m not going to go there. I don’t go there. We needed to play better. We didn’t. How do we play better? That’s where my focus is.”
After opening the series with a 4-1 win on Thursday night, the Pirates dropped the last three games. Left fielder Gregory Polanco was ejected by umpire Pat Hoberg for arguing balls and strikes in the third inning of the finale. It was Polanco’s first career ejection.
Cincinnati left-hander Brandon Finnegan (9-10) struck out seven in five innings, but allowed five hits and walked five.
“The seven strikeouts played for him,” Hurdle said. “It got him out of the all messes. We weren’t able to convert in some situations that were there for us with a single, let alone a double, let alone a homer. That would have been great. Our execution in crunch time when we were trying to move or score or (get) a two-out hit has been challenging. … We weren’t able to punch through and get that big hit off him.”
Jumbo Diaz followed Finnegan with two innings and Ross Ohlendorf and Wandy Peralta each got three outs, completing a seven-hitter. The Pirates (69-72) left 10 runners on base and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“The Pirates are always good,” Finnegan said. “They have a good-hitting team. The Reds and Pirates don’t really get along very well. But it’s nice beating any team, especially winning a series.”
Cincinnati grabbed control in the second, taking advantage of an error by center fielder Andrew McCutchen and some wildness by Vogelsong. Holt had the big blow, a two-run triple that gave the Reds a 4-0 lead. Eugenio Suarez followed with an RBI single.
Vogelsong was charged with six runs and seven hits.
Cincinnati (60-82) finished with 13 hits. Joey Votto, one of the hottest hitters in the majors, was the only starting position player to fail to record a hit for the Reds.
Reds: Alfredo Simon will miss the rest of the year with a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. Simon went 2-7 with a 9.37 ERA this season. … INF Jose Peraza was given the day off after being hit by a pitch in his hand Saturday.
Pirates: 2B Josh Harrison’s right groin injury is “more than day to day” and could potentially be season ending, according to general manager Neal Huntington.
Reds: Keyvius Sampson (0-1, 3.90 ERA) will move to the rotation in order for the Reds to skip the start of Anthony DeSclafani. Sampson will be making his second start in 2015 after starting 12 games in 2016.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole (7-9, 3.55 ERA) is expected to return from the disabled list to start Monday at Philadelphia. Cole has been inactive since Aug. 24 with right elbow inflammation. He has made just 20 starts after pitching 32 games in 2015.