PITTSBURGH – Edinson Volquez allowed two runs over six innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on the Detroit Tigers early in a 4-2 victory Tuesday night.
Volquez (10-7) struck out five and walked two against five hits to improve to 6-1 in his last seven decisions.
Travis Snider went 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Pirates. Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis added RBI doubles and Jordy Mercer chipped in a run-scoring single. Mark Melancon worked out of a two-on, one-out jam for his 22nd save.
Alex Avila hit his ninth homer of the season for Detroit.
Robbie Ray (1-2) gave up four runs in five-plus innings while making a spot start for the weary Tigers. Detroit has lost six of seven as it battles surging Kansas City for the lead in the AL Central.
The Pirates signed Volquez to a one-year deal worth $5 million in the offseason. At the moment, it looks like a bargain. While the top end of Pittsburgh’s rotation has struggled to stay healthy, Volquez has been one of the few constants.
He hasn’t missed a start and has been the team’s best starter over the last six weeks as the Pirates have climbed back into the thick of the playoff hunt.
The right-hander was shaky early. Ian Kinsler drove home Ezequiel Career with an RBI-single in the first and Miguel Cabrera followed with a single to put runners at the corners with one out. Victor Martinez smashed a grounder up the middle that Volquez somehow grabbed with his glove while reaching behind his back. Kinsler was tagged out in a rundown between third and home and the big inning was avoided.
It was the only reprieve Volquez needed. Pittsburgh’s offense, which broke out of a weekend slump by pounding the Tigers for 11 runs in a win on Monday, responded yet again. Sanchez and Snider delivered consecutive RBI doubles in the second off Roy to put the Pirates in front.
Mercer drove home Josh Harrison in the third to make it 3-1. Avila hit a long home run to center to pull Detroit within one but pinch hitter Ike Davis doubled to the gap in right-center to score Starling Marte and push the lead to 4-2.
Tigers: Officially placed RHP Anibal Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 9 with a right pectoral strain and recalled left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy from Triple-A Toledo.
An MRI on Cy Young winner Justin Verlander’s sore shoulder on Tuesday revealed no major structural damage, though manager Brad Ausmus called it “unlikely” that Verlander would make his next scheduled start on Sunday against Seattle.
Pirates: The team continues to take a cautious approach with right-handed starter Gerrit Cole. The former No. 1 pick, who has been on the disabled list since July 5 with a right lat injury, will start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Cole allowed one hit in six scoreless innings in a start for Indianapolis last Sunday. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the team would like to see Cole get one more start under his belt without any setbacks before making his return.
Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker’s bad back kept him out of the lineup on Tuesday, though Hurdle said Walker is making significant progress.
The interleague series between the two clubs moves to Detroit on Wednesday.
Rookie Buck Farmer will make his major league debut for the Tigers. The fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft went 10-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts for Class A West Michigan and went 1-0 in two starts with Double-A Erie.
“He’s pitched very well,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “He’s got good stuff. Ideally, you’d have more development time. I haven’t seen him myself really, maybe one start. Our guys like him.”
Vance Worley (5-1, 2.30 ERA) will start for Pittsburgh. Worley is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his last four starts.