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Bucs' six-game home win streak snapped by LA

Volquez struggles, has some bad luck as Pirates held in check by Ryu

PITTSBURGH -- Athletes dealing with rough times are known to say they'd rather be lucky than good. Edinson Volquez did not have to make that choice Monday. He was neither in a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers.

The Pirates' top winner, however, definitely was rested. Perhaps too chilled out, from a 10-day respite since he had last pitched.

"Yeah, too many days between starts," said Volquez, calling the break the longest he has ever had in season. "It made pitching against a team like that really tough. Everything was up. I couldn't execute my breaking ball."

Volquez was not able to retire the side in order in any of his innings, as he went 5 2/3 and allowed 10 hits, his most since giving up 11 on June 7, 2013 -- his career high -- while pitching for the Padres in Colorado. He managed to navigate many straits, but not those in the third and fourth innings, when the Dodgers railed for all their runs.

So the Bucs actually lost at PNC Park, for only the third time in a month. Their six-game home winning streak was halted by left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who in seven innings allowed five hits, three of them in the Pirates' two-run fourth.

For the Dodgers to perpetrate this home invasion serves as a reminder of the challenge facing the Pirates. They have been opportunistic to stay in the heat of the division race, taking advantage -- as playoff hopefuls must -- of weaker and hurting teams. At some point, though, they have to stand up to the tough guys, too.

Pittsburgh does own the National League's best record of 27-17 since June 1. However, only five of those wins have come in 15 games against teams with winning records.

Bad breaks conspired with the long break against Volquez. The hits in the decisive three-run fourth included one that bad-hopped off third baseman Josh Harrison's glove and another that caromed off the second-base bag, changing directions just as Neil Walker was about to scoop it up.

"One was off a player, which was a tricky hop. And the other one hit the bag," manager Clint Hurdle said.

"That's part of the game," said Volquez, shaking his head. "You can't complain about that."

The Pirates welcomed back Starling Marte -- who went hitless in four at-bats in his first start since his helmet stopped a 98-mph fastball Friday night -- and sat both Pedro Alvarez and Gregory Polanco to go all-righty against Ryu.

Side mattered little against Ryu. His breaking ball can dive out of anyone's reach.

"[He] probably had the biggest drop in curveball we've seen this year as far as depth," Hurdle said. "It was 13-15 inches of drop. He can throw that down at 71-74 [mph] and the fastball is 92, 93. He's covering 20 [mph] and he has a cutter. The guy's got weapons, and he's a cool cat on the mound. He stayed away from the barrel."

As if his own weapons weren't disarming enough, Ryu apparently has been aping Clayton Kershaw's slider and Josh Beckett's curveball.

"I've learned from my teammates," Ryu said. "I didn't feel pressure in changing. I feel these changes work for me and I throw these pitches with full confidence."

Volquez came within one hot smash off Harrison's glove at third of escaping a first-and-third, none-out jam in the fourth. But that two-out shot by Justin Turner went for a two-run double, and Adrian Gonzalez followed with a single to score Turner and dig a 5-0 hole.

As excellent and resolute as the Pirates have been when facing a deficit, that was too deep. RBI singles in the bottom of the fourth by Russell Martin and Jordy Mercer actually brought the potential tying run to the plate in Michael Martinez, whose grounder to short ended the Pirates' one and only threat against Ryu.

As Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage maneuvered their rotation around the four-day All-Star break, long rest was unavoidable for most of the starters. The longest fell on Volquez, who had gone the route in his last start, on July 10 in St. Louis.

"It was tough, especially the way I was pitching before the break, for me to come back after 10 days off," said Volquez, who won his last four starts prior to the break but had not lobbied to be kept on schedule.

"No, not at all," he said. "I just want to be there for the team and compete, so whatever they decided to do I'm good with."

"I believe the layoff, possibly, could have lagged with him," Hurdle conceded. "If you look at all the other starts, there's been some traffic early in games that he's been able to pitch through. He continued to battle. He had some good sequences, so we'll get him back on track in his routine, and I'm sure he'll sharpen up."

Volquez's career record with six or more days between starts fell to 8-16 with a 5.03 ERA.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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