Key hits, strong pitching lead Pirates
PITTSBURGH – Clint Hurdle did his best to ignore the doubters when the Pittsburgh Pirates took a $5 million flier on Edinson Volquez.
“That’s why they call it noise,” Hurdle said.
Funny, it’s quiet now.
The resurgent right-hander continued his career resurrection on Tuesday night, limiting the Detroit Tigers for six effective innings in a 4-2 victory. Volquez (10-7) allowed two runs on five hits, striking out five against two walks. His best play, however, wasn’t a pitch but a slick behind-the-back grab of a chopper by Victor Martinez in the first inning that kept the Tigers from extending an early 1-0 lead.
“The ball got me,” Volquez said. “I got lucky on that one.”
Maybe, but Volquez isn’t ruling out karma either.
There were times over the last five years when that ball would find its way to centerfield and Volquez would crumble. Not this time. The former All-Star turned reclamation project has been one of the few constants in a pitching rotation that’s seen top end starters Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole spend significant time on the disabled list.
“He’s been fun to watch,” Hurdle said. “From the time we got him he showed up wanting to get better and wanting to learn.”
Travis Snider went 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Pirates. Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis added RBI doubles and Jordy Mercer chipped in a run-scoring single. Mark Melancon worked out of a two-on, one-out jam for his 22nd save as Pittsburgh improved to 5-3 without star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, who is on the disabled list with a rib injury.
Alex Avila hit his ninth homer of the season for Detroit.
Robbie Ray (1-2) gave up four runs in five-plus innings while making a spot start for the weary Tigers. Detroit has lost six of seven as it battles surging Kansas City for the lead in the AL Central.
“We’ve got to make our own opportunities,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities and we’re not doing that.”
Detroit’s best chance came in the first.
Ian Kinsler drove home Ezequiel Carrera with an RBI-single in the first and Miguel Cabrera followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Martinez smashed a grounder up the middle that Volquez somehow grabbed with his glove while reaching behind his back. Kinsler was tagged out in a rundown between third and home and the big inning was avoided.
It was the only reprieve Volquez needed.
Sanchez and Snider delivered consecutive RBI doubles in the second off Roy to put the Pirates in front.
Mercer drove home Josh Harrison in the third to make it 3-1. Avila hit a long home run to center to pull Detroit within one but pinch hitter Ike Davis doubled to the gap in right-center to score Starling Marte and push the lead to 4-2.
Tigers: Officially placed RHP Anibal Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 9 with a right pectoral strain and recalled left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy from Triple-A Toledo.
An MRI on Cy Young winner Justin Verlander’s sore shoulder on Tuesday revealed no major structural damage, though Ausmus called it “unlikely” that Verlander would make his next scheduled start on Sunday against Seattle.
Pirates: The team continues to take a cautious approach with Cole, who has been on the disabled list since July 5 with a right lat injury. The former No. 1 pick will start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Hurdle said the team would like to see Cole get one more start under his belt without any setbacks before making his return.
Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker’s bad back kept him out of the lineup on Tuesday, though Hurdle said Walker is making significant progress.
The interleague series between the two clubs moves to Detroit on Wednesday.
Rookie Buck Farmer will make his major league debut for the Tigers. The fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft went 10-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts for Class A West Michigan and went 1-0 in two starts with Double-A Erie.
Vance Worley (5-1, 2.30 ERA) will start for Pittsburgh. Worley is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his last four starts.