Edinson Volquez was at his slickest Tuesday night when he made a blind, behind-the-back snag on a comebacker in the first inning that saved a run.
Later, he became the Pirates' first 10-game winner this season with a 4-2 victory against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park.
"About time," Volquez said regarding that 10th win. "It feels pretty good. ... I just wanted to keep the ball down. That's a pretty good team there. I was able to throw my sinker down and get a lot of ground balls."
Volquez got early run support galore as the Pirates doubled five times and stole two bases. They scored four runs against Robbie Ray, making the first road start of his major league career.
The win raised the Pirates to 64-55, wrapped up the homestand 5-3 and started a grueling stretch of 22 games against playoff contenders at 2-0.
Volquez pitched six strong innings, giving up two runs and five hits. He walked two and struck out five.
"Really had to battle out there ... retired nine guys three pitches or less, a lot of extended counts, behind counts and just kept making pitches," said manager Clint Hurdle. "He poured it all out there for his 10th win. That got us to a real good place in the game."
The Tigers went down in order in the seventh and eighth and threatened in the ninth with consecutive hits against closer Mark Melancon, who battled back for his 22nd save.
Ezequiel Carrera doubled to the Clemente Wall against Volquez and scored on Ian Kinsler's single to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the first. But Volquez then snared the comebacker from Victor Martinez behind his back, spun around and threw to catcher Russell Martin who tagged out Kinsler in a rundown.
How exactly did he snag it?
"I have no idea. I found out I got the ball when the ball hit my glove half and half," Volquez said, laughing. "I turned around and was supposed to throw to second base ... and I threw to home plate. I got lucky on that one."
Said Hurdle: "It's going to make a highlight film. ... It's an instinctive play, very exciting when it happens."
He was visited briefly by the training staff, but stayed in the game.
Martin led off the second with a double to the notch in deepest left-center and scored when Gaby Sanchez lined a double down the third-base line.
Travis Snider hit a playable ball to center, but it split the converging outfielders, dropped and scored Sanchez. It was ruled a double.
The Pirates tacked on another run in the third. Josh Harrison led off with a double and scored on a sharp single up the middle by Jordy Mercer to make it 3-1.
Alex Avila homered to left-center field in the fourth to cut the Pirates lead to 3-2, but Ike Davis delivered a pinch-hit double that drove in Starling Marte in the sixth to make it 4-2.
Ray left the game after five-plus innings. He gave up four runs and six hits, walked two and struck out five.
Volquez limited any damage that may have been done by Tigers cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera, holding him to a single and two walks.
"I told him you're not going to beat me. Enjoy your time at first base. He was laughing," Volquez said.
Tony Watson entered in the eighth and struck Cabrera out swinging after battling back from a 3-0 count.
"Tony's one of the best bullpen guys in the major leagues," Hurdle said. "Probably missed on a 2-0 pitch we thought we might've had a strike on; he just came back and made pitches. ... He has the ability to take care of things up there with that power fastball, that finish to it."
After Justin Wilson put the Tigers down in order in the seventh, Watson delivered a 1-2-3 eighth against the heart of the order.
First Published August 12, 2014 12:00 AM