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PITTSBURGH — Edinson Volquez allowed two runs over six innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on the Detroit Tigers early in a 4-2 victory on 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 and is a half game behind 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 Carrera 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.
TRAINER'S ROOM: 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.
ON DECK: The series between moves to Detroit today. 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.
VERLANDER UPDATE: Justin Verlander’s sore right shoulder will likely force him to miss at least one start, the latest setback for the Tigers.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus is thrilled, however, the news isn’t worse. Ausmus said an MRI on Verlander’s shoulder Tuesday revealed inflammation “in a number of different areas” but no major structural damage.
“It’s not a surgical injury and as of right now it doesn’t seem like he’ll have to go on the DL,” Ausmus said.
Verlander left Monday night’s 11-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates after laboring through a first inning in which he surrendered five runs. He complained of discomfort in the shoulder afterward and added he “didn’t feel great.” While the initial prognosis is encouraging, he’ll almost certainly won’t pitch for 10 days, the latest in a series of setbacks for the reeling Tigers.
Still, Ausmus remains encouraged simply because the prognosis could have been so much worse.
“It was definitely good news,” Ausmus said. “Any time you’re talking about a pitcher and his arm, it’s a very fragile area to be talking about. It was certainly a ray of light in a stormy sky.”
Ausmus said it’s “unlikely” Verlander would make his next start on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners. Rookie Robbie Ray, the scheduled starter for Tuesday night’s game in Pittsburgh, would fill in on Sunday if Verlander can’t go.
“I don’t think it would be in Justin’s best interests (to pitch),” Ausmus said. “I imagine a little bit of rest would be part of the prescription.”
Verlander, 31, is just 10-11 with a 4.76 ERA this season. He is the second member of Detroit’s starting rotation to be sidelined in the last week. Anibal Sanchez is on the 15-day disabled list after straining his right pectoral muscle in a loss to Toronto last Friday.