Baseball / Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) gets checked on after being hit by a pitch in the first inning at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, June 23, 2014. (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times/MCT)

Pirates bedevil Rays in 8-1 road win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In their win Monday night at Tropicana Field, the Pirates received help from two players whose recent performance had dipped.

Pedro Alvarez hit a three-run home run and Edinson Volquez pitched eight innings during the Pirates' 8-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Pirates won their third in a row and fourth out of five as they evened their record at 38-38.

Alvarez did not have an RBI since June 7. Since then, he was hitting .196 with a .275 on-base percentage in 51 plate appearances prior to Monday. Volquez allowed one run on five hits. His eight innings pitched represented his longest outing of the year and the most since he threw a complete-game one-hitter against the Houston Astros July 19, 2012, while pitching for the San Diego Padres.

Volquez (5-6) allowed eight runs on six hits and three walks in 21/3 innings in most recent outing.

"This is another team that you've got to be able to get strikes in(side)," manager Clint Hurdle said before Monday's game, regarding what Volquez needed to do to improve after his previous start. "You've got to be able to move them off the plate. You've got to be able to change direction east and west, you've got to go north and south. He's got a breaking ball and a changeup to do those things, so it's going to be consistency of strikes. Working ahead in the count quickly, trying to get some guys done in three pitches or less."

The Pirates' defense aided Volquez with three inning-ending double plays.

Volquez allowed a run in the first inning but settled down after that. Desmond Jennings reached on an infield single and, while running on the pitch to Ben Zobrist, reached second on a groundout. Evan Longoria's flyout sent Jennings to third and James Loney's single scored him.

He allowed only three hits after the first inning, one of them a bunt single, and none in his final four innings of work.

The outfield trio of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen combined to steal four bases against Rays starter Alex Cobb and catcher Ryan Hanigan. Three of those steals led to runs.

The Rays entered the game with the worst record in the major leagues, but had won seven of their past 11 games after losing 14 out of 15.

"They connect the dots better," Hurdle said before the game. "They've been challenged on moving runners from second to third, scoring runners from third."

Cobb worked his way into deep counts throughout his five innings of work and threw only 49 of his 91 pitches for strikes. He issued three walks and allowed six runs on six hits.

Though Cobb did not walk a batter in the first inning, he threw 10 of his 21 pitches for strikes and the Pirates took advantage of offensive counts. Cobb hit Marte on the right shoulder as Marte squared to bunt. Marte was in pain and an athletic trainer examined him, but he stayed in the game. Marte stole second and might have been able to score on McCutchen's single up the middle, but he initially took a step back toward second and only made it to third.

McCutchen stole second and Ike Davis drove in Marte with a grounder. Russell Martin hit one right back at Cobb that ended up an RBI infield single after deflecting off Cobb's right knee. A Rays trainer checked on Cobb, but he also stayed in the game.

Marte improved his baserunning in the third inning. He stretched a hit to right-center field into a double to lead off the inning. McCutchen again grounded a single up the middle, but this time Marte broke on contact and scored.

McCutchen stole his second base of the game. After two outs, Josh Harrison walked. Alvarez took a first-pitch fastball out to dead center field for his 12th home run and the Pirates led, 6-1.

(c)2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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