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Yankees' 5-homer outburst deflates Pirates

Getty Images - The Pirates' Edinson Volquez reacts after the Yankees' Alfonso Soriano hit a solo home run in the seventh inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Edinson Volquez reacts after the Yankees' Alfonso Soriano hit a solo home run in the seventh inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
USA Today Sports - Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter tags Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez after he tried to stretch a single into a double during the seventh inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York. Sanchez initially was ruled safe, but the call was overturned by replay.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter tags Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez after he tried to stretch a single into a double during the seventh inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York. Sanchez initially was ruled safe, but the call was overturned by replay.
AP - Pirates starter Edinson Volquez reacts after giving up a solo home run to the Yankees' Zoilo Almonte (rear) during the third inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates starter Edinson Volquez reacts after giving up a solo home run to the Yankees' Zoilo Almonte (rear) during the third inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
AP - A home run ball hit by the Yankees' Mark Teixeira bounces back onto the field after Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata was unable to make the catch during the first inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>A home run ball hit by the Yankees' Mark Teixeira bounces back onto the field after Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata was unable to make the catch during the first inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
AP - Yankees catcher Brian McCann pops the ball out of his glove after Pirates first baseman Ike Davis struck out in the eighth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Yankees catcher Brian McCann pops the ball out of his glove after Pirates first baseman Ike Davis struck out in the eighth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - The Yankees' Derek Jeter tries to pick off the Pirates' Tony Sanchez at second in the fifth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Yankees' Derek Jeter tries to pick off the Pirates' Tony Sanchez at second in the fifth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - The Yankees' Brian McCann tags out the Pirates' Gaby Sanchez in the fourth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Yankees' Brian McCann tags out the Pirates' Gaby Sanchez in the fourth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - The Yankees' Brian McCann tags out the Pirates' Gaby Sanchez in the fourth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Yankees' Brian McCann tags out the Pirates' Gaby Sanchez in the fourth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
AP - The Yankees' Alfonso Soriano (12) slides safely into second base ahead of the tag from Pirates second baseman Neil Walker on a double to left field during the eighth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Yankees' Alfonso Soriano (12) slides safely into second base ahead of the tag from Pirates second baseman Neil Walker on a double to left field during the eighth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Ike Davis fields a hit by the Yankees' Yangervis Solarte in the eighth Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Ike Davis fields a hit by the Yankees' Yangervis Solarte in the eighth Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
USA Today Sports - Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) steals second as Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte (26) is slow to tag during the third inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) steals second as Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte (26) is slow to tag during the third inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
AP - The Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks with second-base umpire James Hoye about a pick-off play at second base in which Pirates' Tony Sanchez was tagged out by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter during the fifth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks with second-base umpire James Hoye about a pick-off play at second base in which Pirates' Tony Sanchez was tagged out by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter during the fifth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
AP - Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter reacts after putting the pick-off tag on the Pirates' Tony Sanchez (26) at second base during the fifth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter reacts after putting the pick-off tag on the Pirates' Tony Sanchez (26) at second base during the fifth inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
AP - The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen steals second base ahead of the throw to Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte (26) during the third inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen steals second base ahead of the throw to Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte (26) during the third inning Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
Getty Images - NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Ike Davis #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes the catch for the out as Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees is out at first in the first inning on May 17, 2014 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17:  Ike Davis #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes the catch for the out as Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees is out at first in the first inning on May 17, 2014 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
USA Today Sports - Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez pitches during the first inning against the Yankees on Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez pitches during the first inning against the Yankees on Saturday, May 17, 2014, in New York.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014, 7:27 p.m.
 

NEW YORK — The Pirates have regressed in a number of areas this season. One particular area of decline — the ability to keep fly balls in the park — does not mix well with the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium.

Pirates pitchers allowed the fewest home runs in the major leagues last year. They produced a historic-best ground-ball rate combined with the third-lowest home run-to-flyball ratio. But the Pirates entered Saturday with the sport's fifth-worst home run-to-fly ball ratio.

The ranking only will worsen. Edinson Volquez continued to struggle, allowing four of the five home runs the Pirates surrendered in a 7-1 loss to the Yankees on Saturday.

After allowing 101 home runs in 2013, the Pirates have allowed 45 home runs through 41 games.

All five Yankees home runs went out to right field or right center. The Yankees' Bronx home has ranked as one of baseball's top-10 easiest parks to homer in each season since its opening in 2009, according to ESPN Park Factors. It's in large part due to the short distance to the right-field wall.

“I think I threw a lot of good pitches. I made a couple mistakes,” Volquez said. “You cannot make mistakes in this ballpark.”

Of course, Pirates hitters were playing in the same park and accounted for only one homer. In the sixth, in his first appearance in the starting lineup since straining his back last Saturday, Starling Marte homered off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances.

All the scoring in Saturday's came via the home run. Most of it came against Volquez, who always has been susceptible to the long ball.

He has allowed nine homers in 49 23 innings this season.

The Pirates' primary focus with Volquez since spring training has been improving his fastball command. The Pirates want Volquez catching the plate with his fastball — just not that much plate.

All four of the Yankees' home runs off Volquez — Mark Teixeira's two-run shot in the first inning, Zoilo Almonte's solo homer in the fourth, Brett Gardner's solo shot in the sixth and Alfonso Soriano's home run in the seventh — came off his fastball. Volquez's two-seamer wasn't sinking but running into the middle of the zone.

After a strong start to the season, in which it appeared Volquez might be another successful reclamation project completed by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Volquez has struggled mightily in his past four starts. In his past four outings spanning 21 23 innings, Volquez has allowed 20 earned runs, including eight homers, and has a 8.31 ERA.

Other than those four home runs allowed, Volquez actually pitched well. He allowed just two other hits and no walks in 6 13 innings. He struck out three, getting some swings and misses on his changeup and curveball.

“You look at the volume of work: First-pitch strikes were good, he spun the ball very efficiently and he threw some good changeups,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's again a case of where the mistakes he made, he paid for them, and they ended up on the other side of the fence. But he also threw some very clean sequences. … You just have to continue to work and push through.”

In the eighth, Vin Mazzaro allowed the fifth home run, a Brian McCann two-run line drive that just cleared the right-field wall.

The struggles went beyond Volquez. The Pirates made a number of outs on the bases.

In the fourth inning, three of four Pirates who came to bat recorded a hit — including a double — but the Pirates failed to score thanks to baserunning gaffes.

Marte was nabbed on a strikeout-caught stealing double play. After Gaby Sanchez doubled, he was cut down easily at home plate on a throw from Soriano on Jordy Mercer's single.

“We're always going to push Soriano's arm,” Hurdle said.

In the fifth, Tony Sanchez initially was ruled to have been picked off second base until a replay overturned the call. In the seventh, he was thrown out at second base for the first out of the inning when he attempted to turn a single into a double.

It was another mistake on a day of mistakes for the Pirates.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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