Veteran pitcher unable to contain host Orioles in Bucs' split-squad action
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles jumped out to a big lead against the Pirates on Sunday afternoon, backing up a strong start by lefty Wei-Yin Chen as they went on to win, 9-2, at Ed Smith Stadium.
The top of Baltimore's lineup provided the early fireworks, with leadoff man David Lough reaching on a bunt single and coming around to score on a double to left field by Nelson Cruz. Chris Davis continued his hot start to the spring one batter later, crushing a solo homer off Pirates starter Edinson Volquez over the bleachers in left to put the Orioles ahead, 3-0, in the first inning.
Davis finished the game 3-for-3 with three RBIs and three runs, bringing his Grapefruit League average to .533.
Chen looked like he was back on track against Pittsburgh on Sunday, allowing one hit and striking out two batters in three scoreless innings. Chen gave up two runs on five hits and a walk on Tuesday against the Yankees but felt he executed his pitches better in his second Grapefruit League start.
Volquez, meanwhile, struggled to keep the ball in the park. The right-hander gave up a three-run shot to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy in the third, when he was chased from the game after allowing six runs on seven hits while striking out three in 2 2/3 innings.
"His stuff was really good. Unfortunately, that was the first time I've ever caught him, and him and I weren't on the same page," Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez said of Volquez. "I could see he was uncomfortable throwing to me, and it kind of affected him. I take that to heart. I did not feel good back there because I knew he wasn't really in sync. There was a lot of shakes, a lot of time in between pitches.
"I knew he wasn't in the rhythm that he wanted to be in. That's natural after coming over from somewhere else and throwing to a guy you've never thrown to before. It's a process. You have to learn these guys, and that's what Spring Training is for. Unfortunately, we did give up a couple home runs off some quality pitches, but those are big league hitters, and that's why they're in the bigs."
Baltimore went on to score three more runs in the bottom of the fourth on doubles by Quintin Berry and Davis and an RBI single by Nick Markakis.
The Pirates got a run back in the fourth, when reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen drove his second homer of the spring to left field off Brad Brach. Sanchez also went deep off Brach in the fifth, lofting a solo shot to left in the fifth.
Up next: Right-hander Jay Jackson, hoping to turn a chance into a job challenge, makes his second spring start as the Pirates host the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET at McKechnie Field. Jackson blanked Toronto on one hit for two innings on Wednesday, when he stepped in as Jeff Locke was scratched with a sore right side. A six-year Minor Leaguer with 103 Triple-A games, Jackson has four shutout innings overall in Grapefruit League play.