Edinson Volquez couldn’t seem to find the strike zone in the first inning of his start against the Philadelphia Phillies, throwing 11 of his 16 pitches for balls.
After escaping the jam unscathed, he got some advice from pitching coach Ray Searage.
The rest of the way went smoothly with Volquez allowing a run over seven innings, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 3-2 Saturday.
“He slowed me down,” Volquez said. “I was too fast to the plate and everything was late with my hands to get the ball where I wanted.”
The adjustment worked.
“I could see the strike zone a little closer to me and I felt like I could put the ball where I wanted,” Volquez said.
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer in the first and Volquez (7-6) had an RBI groundout with the bases loaded in the second inning as the Pirates moved a season-high five games over .500 at 46-41. The Pirates could’ve added to the 3-0 lead but Gregory Polanco Starling Marte each flew out with men on second and third.
Volquez allowed four hits and walked four. He struck out five in his third straight win.
“He battled,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was a very, I thought, gritty performance by him today because he spent a lot of time out of the stretch again.”
McCutchen followed up Friday’s game, when he was a home run shy of the cycle, with the big hit off David Buchanan. McCutchen connected to right after Polanco led off the home first with a single.
McCutchen said it was nice to begin his day with a home run after he ended Friday with a ball that smacked the wall about 10 feet lower than necessary to clear it.
“I got a little better swing on it,” McCutchen said. “(I) got out in front of it a little more so I was able to get hands through the zone and put a little more backspin on it.”
Hurdle was pleased his team jumped on top early, similar to the way the Pirates scored four runs in the first inning Friday.
“It’s always nice to get in front,” he said. “It does give you a sense of momentum coming out of the chute.”
Philadelphia dropped a season-high 13 games below .500 at 37-50.
“We haven’t been able to bounce back from being down early in the game,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It’s been different when we’ve scored early.”