Vogelsong proving his worth as starting pitcher

Right-hander allows two unearned runs over six in loss to Padres

Vogelsong proving his worth as starting pitcher

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Vogelsong made it clear in Spring Training: He's more comfortable as a starting pitcher.

The veteran right-hander continued to prove it Wednesday night, making another strong six-inning start. But the Pirates couldn't support him, scraping together two hits and three walks off Edwin Jackson in a 4-0 loss to the Padres.

After undergoing surgery to repair multiple facial fractures, Vogelsong has rejoined the rotation and put together two impressive starts. He pitched six efficient innings on Wednesday, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five.

As a reliever, Vogelsong ran up a 4.91 ERA in 10 appearances. In four starts this season, he owns a 0.95 ERA. He's allowed 12 hits in 19 innings, striking out 18 and walking only two.

The Pirates said Vogelsong earned a spot in the rotation when he came off the disabled list, and he's continued to prove them right.

"It's no secret that I feel more comfortable doing that," Vogelsong said. "For some reason, when I start, I feel like my stuff is better. I don't know if that's being able to take my time getting ready and prepare for a game the way I want to. I just felt like out of the bullpen, it was kind of hit or miss. It was either really good or not so good. I just feel like starting, the pitches are better."

That was again the case Wednesday night. He commanded all of his pitches well, especially his cutter. He worked both sides of the plate and kept the Padres off-balance. With 76 pitches through six innings, he was efficient enough that he could have pitched deeper into the game had the Pirates not been trailing.

"If any young pitcher wants to watch how it's done," shortstop Jordy Mercer said, "that's how it's done. ... It's fun to watch, man. It really is fun to watch him compete like that."

Yet the Pirates lost, 5-2, in Atlanta on Thursday and lost again Wednesday night, when the Pirates were no-hit through five innings. The Padres scored two runs against Vogelsong, both of them unearned, but he took the blame for both.

With one out in the second inning, Christian Bethancourt tapped a swinging bunt back toward the mound. Vogelsong fielded it but his throw tailed off, skipping into foul territory. Jabari Blash, who doubled, scored on the play.

Blash scores on error

Two batters later, Jackson hit a grounder to third that would have been the final out. But Jung Ho Kang misplayed it, the ball bounced into foul ground and Bethancourt scored from second.

"It was my own undoing," Vogelsong said. "I made a bad play and it cost us two runs."

Nonetheless, Vogelsong kept the Pirates in the game, retiring 12 of the last 13 batters he faced and the last eight in a row.

"He pitched very well, gave us a chance to win the game," manager Clint Hurdle said. "His command has been very good. The execution of his pitches has been clean."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.