Volquez struggles as Pirates lose to Blue Jays

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PITTSBURGH – Another rough outing from a starting pitcher put Pittsburgh in a big hole Sunday.


Only this time, the Pirates’ hitters couldn’t save them.


Edinson Volquez gave up a grand slam to Colby Rasmus and a two-run homer to Melky Cabrera as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Pirates 7-2 Sunday.


“I made a lot of bad pitches today,” Volquez said.


The Pirates had won the first two games of the series in comeback fashion. They rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the ninth inning to win the opener, then trailed 5-0 in the fourth before winning Saturday night.


Dustin McGowan (2-1) pitched three-hit ball for seven innings, allowing one run and striking out five.


It was just the fourth win in 13 games for Toronto, which prevented the Pirates from completing their first series sweep of the season.


Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and first base coach Rick Sofield were ejected by plate umpire Greg Gibson at the end of the fourth inning for arguing a called third strike on Jordy Mercer. The strikeout stranded two runners and ended the inning.


“I think it was pretty apparent that the low strike wasn’t going to come into play,” Hurdle said. “But the fact of the matter was it got to a point where I felt a pitch that hadn’t been called a strike all day got called a strike in, for me, a very pivotal at-bat for us.”


Volquez (1-3), the Pirates’ most consistent starter entering Sunday, gave up six runs and seven hits in five innings. He also allowed six earned runs in his last outing April 21 against St. Louis.


This was the first time he worked with Pittsburgh backup catcher Chris Stewart, both new to the team this year.


“I was kind of confused a little bit, what I would throw, what I was supposed to throw,” Volquez said. “We’ll get on the same page. Just got to keep working in my next bullpen and get ready for my next start.”


Pirates starters have combined for just three wins this season, the lowest total in the majors. Their 15 losses are the third most. In the three-game series against Toronto, Pittsburgh’s starters gave up 15 runs, 14 earned.


Volquez pitched himself into a jam in the second inning before Rasmus stepped to the plate, issuing walks to Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Francisco to start the inning. Brett Lawrie reached on an infield single to load the bases with no outs.


Rasmus hit a full-count curveball about 10 rows deep in the right-field seats for his seventh home run of the season, giving the Blue Jays a 4-1 lead.


“I just made the wrong pitch,” Volquez said. “He’s got a good swing; he had a good day today.”


Rasmus hit his fourth career slam. He also doubled and singled.


Josh Harrison hit two triples for the Pirates.


The slam negated an early lead the Pirates built on Neil Walker’s groundout, scoring Harrison after his triple.


Harrison also tripled in the eighth inning and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly.


“It just feels good to be in the lineup and help any way I can,” said Harrison, who was inserted into the leadoff spot Saturday after Starling Marte’s struggles.


Notes

The Pirates plan to recall LHP Jeff Locke to start against San Francisco tonight. An All-Star last year, Locke struggled in the second half of 2013 and did not make the Pirates’ opening day roster. … LHP Wandy Rodriguez (right knee) is tentatively scheduled to make another minor league rehab start Tuesday. After today, the Pirates won’t need a fifth starter in the rotation until they travel to play the New York Yankees May 17.


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