Pirates 6, Reds 3
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Ryan Vogelsong was starting to wonder if he’d ever earn his first major league victory.
“It’s been a long time coming, I’ll tell you that,” said Vogelsong, who struck out two, walked three and allowed just one hit over his final 4 1-3 innings.
“Everyone dreams of winning their first game in the big leagues, so it’s a very special night,” he said.
Vogelsong (1-1) debuted as a reliever with San Francisco in 2000, and was 0-6 in 22 previous major league appearances, including four starts.
Vogelsong, out of minor league options after this season, had won five of his last eight starts at Triple-A Nashville. He spent most of last season on the disabled list recovering from right elbow surgery in September 2001.
Matt Stairs hit a three-run homer in the first inning to back Vogelsong.
“I was teasing him before the game,” Stairs said. “I said, `You’re 0-6 and it’s about time you win one.’ I know he’s going to sleep a lot better tonight.”
Not many Pittsburgh fans were there to witness it, as the paid crowd of 8,565 was the smallest in PNC Park history. Due to a ticket exchange program for season-ticket holders, the Pirates said there were approximately 15,000 in the ballpark.
They were treated to a memorable home run, too. After Abraham Nunez reached on a fielder’s choice and Reggie Sanders was walked by Todd Van Poppel (0-1), Stairs’ 18th homer cleared the right-field seats and rolled into the Allegheny River.
“That was a big, big lift,” Vogelsong said. “That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. When you go out there with a 3-0 lead, it certainly relaxes you.
“I’m the type of pitcher where, if I can minimize the damage the first couple innings, I’ll be all right.”
The Reds had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, loading the bases in the second before Vogelsong got Eric Valent to fly out to center.
“We definitely helped him out, chased some pitches out of the strike zone,” Reds manager Dave Miley said. “If we get a big hit in the first couple of innings, it could have been a different game. We had opportunities there early in the game and just couldn’t capitalize.”
Julian Tavarez pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save in 11 chances as the Pirates won for the fifth time in eight games.
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon was especially happy for Vogelsong.
“He’s worked really hard the last couple of years to come back from that surgery, and it has to be a lift mentally to have something positive to show for it at this level,” McClendon said. “This has got to be relaxing for him.”
Van Poppel, making his third start of the season and second for Cincinnati, allowed five runs—all with two outs—in six innings.
“I felt good and I made some good pitches. But mentally, I had a couple lapses,” Van Poppel said. “Stairs is a good hitter, and I laid one in there and he did what he’s supposed to do with it. He hit it a long way.”
The Pirates committed two of their four errors in the eighth, leading to two Cincinnati runs. Stenson reached on a fielder’s choice and later scored on shortstop Wilson’s throwing error. Corky Miller scored on a throwing error by third baseman Rob Mackowiak.
Jack Wilson added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
The Pirates have used 45 players this season, four shy of the team record set in 1987 and matched in 2001. Pittsburgh has used 22 pitchers, three shy of the team record set in 1996. … The Reds this season have established team records for players (57) and pitchers (30) used. … Stairs’ homer was the 198th allowed by Cincinnati pitchers, tying the club record set in 2001. It was also the 12th ball to end up in the Allegheny River since PNC Park opened—the 11th on a bounce or roll, and the third for Stairs. Houston’s Daryle Wardhomered into the river on a fly July 6, 2002.