Pirates beat Phillies, move to 5 over .500

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, July 5, 2014, 6:57 p.m.

Pirates catcher Chris Stewart kept telling right-hander Edinson Volquez to slow down his mechanics. But the message didn't seem to sink in until pitching coach Ray Searage barked those orders to Volquez in the dugout between innings.

“I guess he needed to hear it from more than one person,” Stewart said, grinning. “Once he did that, you saw the results.”

Volquez overcame a shaky start Saturday, then settled in and guided the Pirates past the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2.

“Ray's the man,” Volquez said. “He slowed me down. I was too fast to the plate. Everything was late with my hands, and I couldn't get the ball where I wanted. Ray told me to slow down, stay back, and I started making my pitches.”

Although he put seven of the first 16 batters he faced on base, Volquez held the Phillies to one run on four hits in seven innings. He walked four and struck out five.

“He didn't give up a big hit,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He battled and was able to make pitches. A very gritty performance.”

Volquez (7-6) won his third start in a row and lowered his ERA to 3.88.

“He settled in and trusted his stuff,” Stewart said. “He didn't try to make it better than what it normally is. He had confidence and just threw it. He didn't try to guide it or make it nastier or anything like that. He got ahead and challenged guys.”

The Pirates took a quick, first-inning lead against right-hander David Buchanan (4-5). Gregory Polanco looped a single to left field. Andrew McCutchen hit a 423-foot homer that landed in the Phillies' bullpen beyond the center field wall.

“A fastball down the middle,” McCutchen said. “I do a pretty good job of hitting those.”

In the second, the Pirates had the bases loaded with none out, yet came up with only one run.

Pedro Alvarez singled, Jordy Mercer doubled and Stewart was hit by a pitch. Volquez hit a bouncer to short — it was too slow for a double play, so the Phillies had to settle for just the out at first base. Alvarez scored.

“I don't think we thought that would be it,” Hurdle said, “but that was it.”

Polanco fouled out, and Starling Marte hit a routine fly ball to right field, snuffing the threat.

In the first inning, Volquez threw 21 pitches — only nine of them strikes. He zipped through a 1-2-3 second, getting a pair of strikeouts.

In the third, the Phillies loaded the bases with two walks and a single. Volquez escaped with a great pitch sequence against Marlon Byrd.

It started with a sinker and a curveball for strikes, followed by another curve that was fouled off. Volquez came back with a 94 mph fastball that was a bit up in the zone, and Byrd swung through it.

“(Volquez) wasn't real sharp, but we let him off the hook,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “We haven't been able to bounce back from being down early in games. That's something that's got to get better.”

The Phillies finally broke through in the fourth, when Cody Asche jacked a 1-2 changeup over the Clemente Wall. A two-minute video review confirmed the home run, which caromed off a fan's hands and back onto the field.

The shot snapped Volquez's 16-inning homerless streak, matching the longest of his career. It also was the longest drought by a Pirates starter this season.

Domonic Brown followed Asche's homer with a single, but Volquez regrouped and retired 11 of the final 12 he faced.

Volquez needed only 17 pitches total to get through the fifth and sixth innings.

Byrd led off the ninth with a solo homer off closer Mark Melancon, who got his 16th save.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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