Daniel Vogelbach, Pirates out-slug Dodgers for surprising series victory
PITTSBURGH — Daniel Vogelbach finished his swing, dropped his bat and stared toward the Clemente Wall in right field. The Pirates’ designated hitter found a low-and-inside fastball, and he did what many left-handed hitters do with pitches there — pulverized it. No question Vogelbach knew it was gone.
While Vogelbach figuring a 110.6 mph missile would leave the shortest part of PNC Park might not sound like a terribly long leap, the bigger picture of what transpired Wednesday afternoon was even more unexpected than the summer-like conditions.
The Vogelbach home run, his team-high fifth of the season, put the Pirates ahead for good and helped them to a 5-3 win over the Dodgers, one that produced a series victory over one of the best teams in Major League Baseball and an outfit with a payroll, oh, about 4 1/2 times the size of the one in Pittsburgh.
It’s the Pirates’ first series victory over the Dodgers since Aug. 12-14, 2016 at Dodger Stadium, their first in Pittsburgh since June 24-27 earlier that season.
In a micro sense, Vogelbach’s seventh-inning homer mattered plenty. He’s been a reliable designated hitter, enabling the Pirates to leverage that position, and had also gotten on base from the leadoff spot. In the clubhouse, Vogelbach’s energy and likability has been infectious, his personality and positivity the perfect fit for a young club.
On Wednesday, Vogelbach came up clutch after the Pirates blew a 3-0 lead in the top half of the seventh. Besides Dillon Peters and Max Kranick, who gave the Pirates six scoreless innings to start, they got some terrific pitching performances from Wil Crowe and David Bednar.
The Pirates homered three times to give them 11 over the past five games. They had just three in the 11 before that.
Crowe relieved Chris Stratton in the seventh and struck out second baseman Max Muncy with two outs and the bases loaded. Bednar buzzed through the two innings to earn the save.
Aside from Vogelbach, who came into Wednesday’s game looking to snap an 0-for-14 skid but wound up with two hits and a walk, Jack Suwinski picked up his second major league homered and also doubled for a two-hit day.
The Pirates originally grabbed a 3-0 lead with a terrific bottom of the sixth that featured a pair of homers to right field, the first from Suwinski, the second off the bat of Josh VanMeter.
Both hit first-pitch fastballs from Dodgers reliever Tommy Kahnle. Suwinski’s barely got out, the ball traveling 356 feet and landing in the first row of seats, while VanMeter got a little more of his.
It was the second homer of Suwinski’s career after he also had one in the first game of this series on Monday. VanMeter, meanwhile, entered Wednesday’s game hitting just .152 on the season.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, however, the lead didn’t last. After Peters and Kranick each worked three scoreless innings — more on them in a bit — Stratton experienced a couple different issues.
Walks to third baseman Justin Turner and right fielder Chris Taylor didn’t help. Neither did the error VanMeter made on a ball hit by center fielder Cody Bellinger.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, designated hitter Edwin Rios whacked an outside changeup from Stratton to the gap in right-center field, allowing all three runs to score.
That bases-clearing double continued what has been a frustrating start to the season for Stratton, who has been scored upon in five of his 13 appearances, allowing all 10 of his 10 runs at home.
It was a shame because Peters and Kranick — recalled Tuesday when it was announced that Jake Marisnick would go on the 10-day injured list with a left thumb issue — pitched extremely well.
Peters retired eight in a row to start before left fielder Gavin Lux hit a two-out single in the third. Overall, the left-hander sat down nine of the 11 men he faced; opponents are hitting .107 (3 for 28) against Peters in his three starts.
Kranick, meanwhile, pitched for the second time since making his 2022 Pirates debut during the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader in Cincinnati. The velocity was a little down from what it was before — Kranick’s four-seamer averaged 93.8 mph compared to 94.2 on the year — but he was also around the strike zone more.
Muncy drew the only walk against those two and never made it past first base. After a 1-2-3 fifth, Kranick then helped himself in the sixth, snaring a hard-hit liner hit by Freeman, then doubling off shortstop Trea Turner at second base.
The Pirates had plenty of chances to score early against Dodgers starter Ryan Pepiot, who was making his MLB and walked five and hit one across three innings. The Pirates stranded eight in the first four innings, with Bryan Reynolds twice striking out for the third out.
Michael Chavis lined out to second base to end the first, while Diego Castillo flew out to right in the third. Each stranded two.