Volquez goes distance as Pirates roll to victory over Cardinals
ST. LOUIS — Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage usually writes up a detailed scouting report for each game and goes over it intently with that day's starter.
Thursday, however, Searage tried a different kind of pregame briefing when right-hander Edinson Volquez faced the St. Louis Cardinals for the fourth time this season.
“Ray came to me and said, ‘Go, pitch and win,' ” Volquez said. “That's all he said. I know those guys from St. Louis pretty well. So I just followed (catcher Russell) Martin, kept the ball down and went for it.”
It worked. Volquez tossed a six-hitter — his first complete game in almost two years — as the Pirates routed the Cardinals, 9-1.
Until Thursday, the Pirates had been one of four big league teams without a complete game this season.
Volquez had waited since July 19, 2012, when he did it for the San Diego Padres against the Houston Astros.
Volquez (8-6) was brilliant, scattering six singles. He walked one and struck out five to rack up his fourth consecutive win.
“I never lost my focus,” Volquez said. “After the fifth, I was like, ‘Let's go for it.' I kept pitching like it was 1-0.”
The Cardinals had just one runner reach second base from the fifth inning on. Volquez threw 114 pitches and took advantage of three double plays.
“One thing I've noticed about him,” manager Clint Hurdle said, “when it gets past the fifth, he smells the finish. It's not like he's looking to just give you six or seven. He's going to go until you take him out.”
The Pirates amassed 10 hits, half of them coming against right-hander Shelby Miller (7-8).
Martin had three hits, including a solo homer. Andrew McCutchen had two hits and scored twice. Neil Walker and Josh Harrison each hit a two-run double.
The Pirates' first four runs all came with two outs.
“The team that gets the most two-out hits is usually the team that wins,” Walker said. “We didn't really hit with runners in scoring position the first three games (of the series). Tonight, we took advantage of some mistakes and were able to play our game.”
The Pirates broke open the game with a three-run fifth inning. The big blow was an RBI single by McCutchen that made it 2-1.
Catcher Tony Cruz set up outside, but Miller's 95 mph fastball drifted over the middle of the plate at the top of the strike zone. McCutchen went up and got it, and lashed an opposite-field single.
With the Pirates up 4-1 in the sixth, things quickly went from sublime to ridiculous and back again.
Pedro Alvarez reached on an infield bouncer that reliever Tyler Lyons couldn't field cleanly. Jordy Mercer hit a comebacker, but Lyons threw it away at second, and both runners were safe on the error.
Volquez's bunt was grabbed by third baseman Matt Carpenter, who threw the ball to second ... to no one. Center fielder Jon Jay was backing up the play and was able to scoop the ball and run to the bag in time to force out Mercer.
A 5-8 fielder's choice putout at second base? Yep.
“I have never, ever seen that,” Hurdle said, grinning. “Maybe in a tee-ball game somewhere, but never at the major league level.”
Gregory Polanco walked, loading the bases. Harrison's double one-hopped the outfield wall to make it 6-1. Polanco scored on a passed ball, and Harrison came home on McCutchen's flyout to deep center.
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