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A human struggle for Pirates on, off field ☕️


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Dee Gordon drives in a run with a sacrifice fly off Mitch Keller at PNC Park – AP

They all talked like it didn't matter.

But you could practically hear the elephant in the room trumpeting along.

"We're all professionals. We are human, and a lot of crazy stuff happened today in our world," Cole Tucker was telling me at his locker. "But when the game starts and the umpire says 'play ball,' I mean, it's baseball. So it's business as usual. Obviously the game didn't reflect that."

No, the game most certainly didn't reflect that. Not on this Tuesday night at PNC Park, when the Pirates fell, 6-0, to the Mariners hours after news broke that the team's All-Star closer, Felipe Vazquez, was arrested on what Chris Archer called "heinous" charges before the game.

Speaking with reporters prior to first pitch, Clint Hurdle insisted the team would move on and play baseball. Vazquez's arrest was in the past, and there it'd stay. His club had a job to do, and that's exactly where their focus would shift.

The players, for their part, said that much materialized.

"We didn't play that great or win the game, which sucks, but I definitely feel like we were locked in on the game," Tucker offered.

"Yeah, I think [we were able to move past it]. Tonight just wasn't our night," Kevin Newman was telling me. "So I don't think that was carried out onto the field."

Then there was Joe Musgrove, whom I caught as he was lacing up his shoes and about to head out the door. Throughout this season, Musgrove's provided insight after insight, always generous and thorough with his time. Additionally, Musgrove has developed a bit of a leadership presence throughout this tumultuous 2019 season for these Pirates. Now, when something like this happens?

That's when a voice like Musgrove's can shine. Only ... not this time. And his explanation makes perfect sense.

"What happened with Felipe is kind of a gut-punch to everybody, and it's nothing that anybody saw coming," Musgrove was telling me. "As far as that, making any kind of speech in here, I don't think really needs to be said until we have more information on it, until we have a better idea of what's actually happening. I think we'll address that as a team as it comes. But we talked with [Pirates President Frank Coonelly] today. He filled us in on what he knows. But all we know really is what the reports say.

"I don't think, from a leadership standpoint, there's much you can do but try to move on and try to finish out these last 12, 15 games. I think there's a lot of other issues that have gone on throughout the course of the year that needed to be addressed more, so we'll talk about those things moving forward more so than we will Felipe."

Look, I believe Musgrove. And Tucker and Newman. I really do. But this was a unique, unexpected and severe situation. Simply as humans, as Tucker put it, that's gotta linger more than just a couple hours, right?

"It's tough," Musgrove conceded. "We lost one of the best closers in baseball, we lost a teammate, we lost a friend. But we're professionals, and our job is to go out there and play the game regardless. Everyone's dealing with stuff on a daily basis that a lot of us don't know about that they keep to themselves because it's their job to come here and play and try not to put that burden on other people. So I think everyone did their best to go out and play. I'm sure there was some effect and some, you know, carryover from that whole Felipe incident. I think tomorrow we're going to come in a little bit fresher and a little bit more at ease with the reality of what's going on."

That'll be welcome. Because Tuesday night, everything on the field felt secondary.

And it was.

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