I’m trying to think of the best way to describe Edinson Volquez’s start tonight, and I’ve settled on “shocking in its efficiency.” Volquez is a guy who’s never had a walk rate lower than 4.0 BB/9, and tonight he cruised through seven innings on just 77 pitches, throwing 53 of them for strikes. He only walked one Brewer, he struck out three, and he scattered eight hits about to limit the Brewers to just two runs. In a sentence I never thought I’d type, it seemed like Volquez didn’t quite have his best stuff tonight (his fastball generally sat around 91) but he was able to locate it so well that it didn’t matter.
For much of the night, it looked like the Pirates were going to need everything that Volquez was giving them. After Andrew McCutchen’s first inning homer, the Pirates had trouble getting to Yovani Gallardo beyond making him throw a ton of pitches. As it turned out, forcing Gallardo to throw 114 pitches in six innings was the key to the game for the Bucs. After Gallardo left the game, the Pirates absolutely hammered the Brewers’ bullpen. First, Josh Harrison hit a pinch-hit two-run homer off of Rob Wooten (more on this in a second), then scored another run off of Wooten after Starling Marte singled, stole second and went to third on Jonathan Lucroy’s bad throw, then scored on an Andrew McCutchen fielder’s choice. Then, in the eighth, the Pirates hammered former Pirate farmhand and Brewer Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang for six runs, including a Gaby Sanchez solo homer and a ridiculous opposite field three-run blast by Pedro Alvarez. It felt almost cruel to blast off on a guy that’s never pitched above rookie ball before, though I suppose this is what the Brewers got themselves into by thinking they could stow Wang away on their roster all year.
The game really turned on a crazy sequence of managerial decisions in the seventh inning. Scooter Gennett lead off the top of the seventh with a single. With the pitcher’s spot due up, Ron Roenicke sent Logan Schafer up to the plate and ordered him to bunt. Schafer fouled off two pitches, Roenicke left the bunt sign on, and Schafer bunted a third pitch foul. Then, with Carlos Gomez up, the Brewers sent Gennett to steal second. He was cut down by a ridiculous Russell Martin throw after Volquez bounced the pitch in the dirt. The Brewers got their leadoff runner on base to start the seventh, then handed the Pirates two outs before Carlos Gomez could bat.
When the bottom of the seventh started, it seemed like Clint Hurdle refused to be out-stupided. Jordy Mercer started the inning with a single, so Hurdle sent Josh Harrison to the plate to bunt him over. Harrison had a ton of trouble and bunted two balls foul. Hurdle was smart enough to take the bunt sign off, and Harrison responded with the game-changing homer. Things took off from there.
After a week full of frustrating starts and solo homers, a really solid start from Volquez and a bunch of multi-run homers is a really nice way to get this homestand kicked off. Let’s hope this game is a sign of things to come.