Volquez can't keep Yanks in the yard as Bucs fall
Right-hander allows four homers in 6 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium
NEW YORK -- From his assessment, Edinson Volquez threw plenty of good pitches Saturday against the Yankees. Both manager Clint Hurdle and teammate Jordy Mercer agreed with him.
Baseball, though, can be cruel. Mistakes, however many or few, can be heightened. They can be the reason for winning and losing. Yet Volquez again was left to think about his four bad pitches -- rather than the other 77 he threw -- that cost the Pirates.
The Yankees' five home runs -- four off Volquez -- were plenty against the Pirates, who fell, 7-1, in their first game at the new Yankee Stadium. The Pirates have lost four of their last five games.
Volquez bowed his head at times when Yankees fans roared with each homer. Sometimes, Volquez looked to the stands in Yankee Stadium in disbelief. Volquez simply threw his hands up in the air in disgust when another one of his pitches did not stay in the yard.
With each homer he allowed, Volquez's body language slumped more on the mound. That is what happens when you throw fastballs that find the middle of the plate.
"They can hit and they are a pretty good team." Volquez said. "I think they were looking for fastballs a lot of the times. As soon as I missed on my breaking ball, I come back with a fastball and they found out I was doing that."
The Yankees scored five runs off Volquez -- and each of them came via the homer. Volquez said he had too much movement on his fastball, and that is what led to his pitches moving away from the corners of the plate.
Volquez's pitching against the Yankees continued a trend he and Hurdle want to see end. Volquez has battled his command throughout the season, and Saturday's game left him with his fourth loss in his last five starts.
Before the game, Hurdle outlined what he wanted to see from Volquez's delivery. Earlier this season, Hurdle noticed Volquez was spinning out of his windup too much. Hurdle said much of the same after the game, but also that Volquez was not that far away from a successful start.
"The balls that they hit were spots you would prefer to stay out of," he said. "The command was good and the first-pitch strikes were very efficient. You just got to continue to work. It's a very challenging part for him and for us now."
The Yankees also used their short fence in right field -- where the foul pole is just 315 feet from the plate -- to their advantage. Each homer that Volquez allowed was hit to right field.
"You cannot make a lot of mistakes in this ballpark," Volquez said.
An impressive statistic for Volquez was that he did not walk any batters. But the Yankees took the lead in the first inning with a two-run homer to right by Mark Teixeira. They added to their lead with solo homers by Zoilo Almonte, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano.
The Pirates did not have that many scoring chances against Yankees starter David Phelps, who pitched five workmanlike innings without allowing a run.
The Pirates hindered their chances to score twice in the fourth inning. Starling Marte, trying to steal second base, was thrown out by Brian McCann. Three batters later, Gaby Sanchez was thrown out at the plate by Soriano when Mercer singled to right.
"Those you hate to run into, but there are chances you want to take when you're not getting those big hits with runners in scoring position," Hurdle said.
The Pirates' lone run came in the sixth inning, when Marte, who went 3-for-3, hit a homer to left field that stayed just inside the foul pole.
The Pirates had two runners on base in the fifth inning when it appeared their rally was halted. Tony Sanchez started the inning with a single, and he moved to second on Jose Tabata's single. Sanchez veered a little too far away from second base and was almost picked off by Phelps.
Second-base umpire James Hoye initially called Sanchez out. Hurdle quickly left the dugout to challenge the ruling. The call was overturned, as replay review showed Sanchez was able to get his right hand on the base before Derek Jeter applied the tag.
The Pirates, though, could not capitalize on Hurdle's successful challenge. Phelps recorded outs on the Pirates' next three batters -- Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
Mercer struggled to explain why the Pirates could not get a clutch hit against Phelps. What made things more frustrating, Mercer said, was to watch the Yankees make contact on nearly every opportunity they had against Volquez's fastball.
"I think they just didn't miss any pitches," Mercer said. "Everything they hit, it seemed like it went out. And that's unfortunate, because I felt like Volquez did make some good pitches."