Volquez, Pirates tame Tigers at PNC to move to 9 games over .500
The stuff has always been there for Edinson Volquez, whose fastball was recently ranked as the third best in the National League by Baseball America, trailing only elite closers Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman.
Harnessing his raw ability was another matter.
But as he has done more consistently this season, Volquez was in command. He led the Pirates to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday at PNC Park. It was Volquez's 10th win of the season, exceeding his 2013 total.
“The overall stuff, it plays,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Volquez. “The command has stepped forward enough to give him the ability to throw the other pitches, to get deep in games, to cut down on his walks. He's been fun to watch. It's an organizational win.”
Volquez (10-7) helped the Pirates (64-55) move to nine games over .500, matching their season-best mark that they previously reached Friday.
Volquez gave up two runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked two, with both free passes issued to Tigers star Miguel Cabrera.
“I told (Cabrera) he was not going to beat me,” Volquez said.
The Pirates saw an opportunity when they signed Volquez to a one-year, $5 million deal.
Volquez showed why the Pirates liked his fastball potential Tuesday. His darting two-seamer touched 95 mph, and he induced 11 ground-ball outs.
“That's a pretty good team there,” Volquez said of the Tigers. “I was able to throw my sinker down and get a lot of ground balls.”
Volquez also mixed in a quality curveball, with which he struck out Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez looking in the second inning and swinging in the sixth.
“He actually has excellent stuff,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who worked for the Padres while Volquez pitched there in 2012-13. “Throws 93, and has a very good curveball and a very good changeup. We got some hits. We just, again, didn't score runs.”
Volquez's only significant trouble came in the first when he allowed three straight hits to the Tigers. After allowing a one-out double to Ezequiel Carrera, Volquez hung a changeup that Ian Kinsler ripped for a RBI single. With runners on the corners and one out, Volquez make a behind-the-back snag of a Victor Martinez ground ball. He threw home to cut down Kinsler at the plate.
Volquez was supported by the Ike Davis-Gaby Sanchez platoon. Sanchez ripped a double off Tigers left-handed starter Robbie Ray in the second to score Russell Martin, who also doubled. Sanchez scored after Carrera misplayed a ball hit by Travis Snider to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
Davis pinchhit for Sanchez in the sixth inning against Tigers right-handed reliever Al Alburquerque. Davis laced a double into the right-center gap that scored Starling Marte to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead.
The Pirates added a run in the third. Josh Harrison doubled, stole third and scored on a single by Jordy Mercer, who was hitting in the No. 3 spot.