Pirates starter Edinson Volquez reacts after giving up a solo home run to the Yankees' Zoilo Almonte in the third inning Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEW YORK -- Other than keep the ball in the park, Edinson Volquez checked just about every box Saturday afternoon.
He kept his pitch count low. He induced ground balls. He didn't walk anybody. He only gave up six hits. Four of those hits left the yard, though, and that outweighed the rest.
Those four home runs sent the Pirates to a 7-1 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Pirates' issues with runners in scoring position, and two outs made on the basepaths, also contributed to their fourth loss in five games.
Games: Pirates vs. New York Yankees, Game 1, 1:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium, New York, with Game 2 to follow approx. 25 minutes later.
Probable starters: Game 1 -- RHP Charlie Morton (0-5, 3.22) for Pirates vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-3, 4.62) for Yankees; Game 2 -- RHP Gerrit Cole (3-3, 3.76) for Pirates vs. LHP Vidal Nuno (1-1, 6.43) for Yankees.
Key matchup: Kuroda vs. the Pirates' plate discipline. He has not walked a batter in his past two starts.
Hidden stat: Kuroda has a 5.83 ERA this season at Yankee Stadium.
Volquez (1-4) needed only 81 pitches to complete 61/3 innings. He struck out three and did not walk a batter, but left four two-seam fastballs over the plate that became home runs.
"The mistakes he made, he paid for, and ended up on the other side of the fence," manager Clint Hurdle said. "But he also threw some very clean sequences."
Mark Teixeira hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Zoilo Almonte, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano led off the third, sixth and seventh innings with solo home runs. Brian McCann added a two-run home run off Vin Mazzaro in the eighth.
"Sometimes I missed with my breaking ball and I came back with the fastball," Volquez said. "They found out I was doing that. Then everybody was looking for a fastball."
Hurdle and Volquez noted that his two-seam fastball to Teixeira started on the inside corner and moved drastically back toward the middle.
"It's big movement, I think," Volquez said. "I want to get it a little bit shorter than what I threw."
Through Volquez's first six games, five of them starts, he allowed one home run in 33 innings and had a 2.18 ERA. In 212/3 innings in four starts since then, he has allowed eight home runs and has an 8.31 ERA.
In four consecutive innings against Yankees starter David Phelps, the Pirates had runners in scoring position and did not score. They made the final out of the inning in the second and third by striking out looking on a fastball with runners in scoring position. Three of the four batters they sent to the plate in the fourth had a hit, including a double, and still they produced no runs.
"[Phelps] was able to locate some pitches and get some called third strikes with runners in scoring position," Hurdle said.
The Pirates drove Phelps' pitch count to 50 after two innings and he issued a walk in each of the first three, but they couldn't score on him. In five innings, Phelps (1-0) allowed five hits and struck out five.
"You continually can say that the guy made pitches," Hurdle said. "We have had pitches to hit and we've just got to keep battling. That two-strike approach comes in big in those situations to maybe foul off those real tough pitches and try to stay alive at the plate."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi removed Phelps at 100 pitches after five innings. The first pitch reliever Dellin Betances threw, a mistake fastball to Starling Marte, sailed into the left-field stands for Marte's third home run of the season, cutting the Yankees' lead to 3-1. Marte went 3 for 3, and in addition to the home run he reached on a hit-by-pitch, stole a base and doubled.
Gaby Sanchez roped a two-out double to left field in the fourth. Jordy Mercer singled to right field and third-base coach Nick Leyva waved Sanchez home, but Soriano's throw was true and Sanchez was out at the plate to end the inning.
In the seventh, Tony Sanchez hit a ball to the base of the wall in right-center. The ball bounced nicely to Gardner, who made a strong throw to second. Second-base umpire James Hoye called Sanchez safe after he dived sideways around Derek Jeter's tag, but after a Yankees challenge, Sanchez was ruled out.
"We're going to push Soriano's arm, we have for the four years that I've been here, and he made a good throw," Hurdle said. "We're going to push Gardner's arm, he made a good throw. Those, you hate to run into, but they're chances you want to take when you're not getting those big hits with runners in scoring position to try to push yourself across the plate or get yourself in scoring position."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
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