Pirates notebook: Success goes up, ERA drops as red-hot Edinson Volquez stays low

Edison Volquez gave up the first home run in his past six starts Saturday, breaking the streak he started June 7 against the Brewers.

"I was trying to make sure that I threw the ball down and I just hanged a pitch over there and he hit it out," Volquez said. "You know, that's part of the game. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is your pitches and I left the ball up in the zone."

Despite giving up the solo shot to Cody Asche in the fourth, Volquez was able to hold the Phillies to one run and four hits in seven innings.

After giving up 11 home runs through his first 11 starts, the right-hander has settled down as of late, focusing on keeping the ball low in the strike zone.

"I think it's just overall execution," manager Clint Hurdle said before the game. "Down [in the zone] is one. He's hard to hit. There hasn't been much conversation about his batting average against him, and the batting average against him isn't a high batting average against."

Volquez's home run issues reached a peak May 17, when he gave up four to the Yankees in a loss. That ended a four-game stretch in which he compiled a 1-3 record and saw his ERA jump from 1.93 to 4.71. He has since lowered his ERA to 4.07 and has gone 5-2, improving to 6-6 overall.

Volquez also put himself in position to continue his first winning streak of the season. He registered his first back-to-back wins in his past two starts against the Mets June 29 and Tampa Bay June 23.

"He's been on a little bit of a roll," Hurdle said. "The conversations were 180 degrees the other way earlier in the season."

Cole update

Hurdle said that Gerrit Cole's sore latissimus dorsi, which he aggravated Friday, was being evaluated and that the starter would play catch before the game. Cole felt good immediately after the game Friday, but no decisions have been made about his status.

"He's checking out right now," Hurdle said. "He's just activating on the field and then he's going to throw and play catch with the pitchers."

Grand larceny

The Pirates are on pace to easily eclipse their stolen-base total from 2013, with 60 coming into Saturday. That mark is seventh in the majors.

The team had 94 stolen bases in 2013. According to Hurdle, the notable increase comes from the players finally catching on to the aggressive baserunning mentality the coaching staff has tried to instill the past few seasons.

"They're looking for dirt balls, they're looking to steal bases, they're looking for that pitcher to pick up and be slow to the plate," Hurdle said. "They're ready every pitch, which might not have been the case before."

Utility man added

The Pirates claimed infielder Dean Anna off waivers from the Yankees and optioned him to Class AAA Indianapolis.

Anna, 27, was designated for assignment Thursday. The rookie debuted this season and went 3 for 22 in 12 games.

Anna led the Pacific Coast League with a .331 batting average in 2013 at Class AAA Tucson in the San Diego Padres organization. He hit nine home runs and 38 doubles with a .410 on-base percentage.

"Breaking in with the yanks was great. Now I get to try with the Pirates. #IndyBound #bucs," Anna tweeted.

Anna filled the final spot on the Pirates 40-man roster. He has played mostly second base and shortstop, but has appeared at third base and both corner outfield spots.

Buried treasure

Travis Snider, who was unavailable Friday because of a stiff neck, pinch-hit for Volquez in the seventh.

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