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Pirates slip by Cardinals

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH --- Pittsburgh Pirates backup catcher Tony Sanchez seems like he is a calm, cool and collected rookie when he steps into the batter's box.

Sanchez provided the game-winning hit with a seventh-inning single and right-hander Edinson Volquez was solid in his first start with the Pirates as Pittsburgh slipped past the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 on Sunday.

Sanchez's double to deep center field with two outs came off Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright (0-1) and snapped a 1-1 tie.

The hit by the rookie scored third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who led off the inning with a walk, and was his second game-winning hit of the week as he singled home the winning run in the 16th inning of Wednesday night's victory over the Chicago Cubs.

"It's been great to be able to come through with a couple of game-winners but I'm a nervous wreck when I'm up there in those situations," Sanchez said. "My mind is raising and my heart is pounding. It feels like the game is going about 1,000 mph on me. It's not easy, that's for sure. I'm just thankful I've been able to get a couple big hits early in the season.

Left-hander Tony Watson (1-0) retired all four batters he faced, striking out three, and ran his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 24, dating to last season. Closer Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless ninth to convert his first save in two opportunities.

St. Louis managed just three hits. The Cardinals hit a number of other balls hard but three of them were turned into outs because of the Pirates' defensive shifts.

"They did seem to always have a guy in the right place," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team is hitting just .186 through the first six games of the season. "The hitters know the alignment when they step into the box, so I don't think it's having an effect on them. We just want our hitters to think about playing to their strengths instead of worrying about the shifts."

Singed to a one-year, $5-million contract as a free agent in December, Volquez was sharp in his first start for the Pirates as he gave up one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings with one walk and four strikeouts. That came after Volquez pitched two scoreless innings of relief Thursday against the Chicago Cubs.

Volquez's 5.71 earned run average last season with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers was the highest among the 81 pitcher who qualified for the ERA title. He also allowed 15 runs in 13 innings in exhibition games this spring.

"What you saw was fastball command with downhill angle, big-time spin and tilt on the breaking ball, a good changeup and getting ahead with good pitches," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a guy we've seen before in past year. He pitched a gem, a flat out gem."

Wainwright went seven innings and allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings after pitching seven scoreless innings in his first start of the season at the Cincinnati Reds in Monday's opener. He struck out seven and walked two.

The Pirates opened the scoring in the fourth inning when center fielder Andrew McCutchen doubled with one out and scored on second baseman Neil Walker's two-out double.

An RBI triple by the Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay in the sixth tied the score 1-1 and chased Volquez.

NOTES: OF John Jay started in place of struggling Cardinals CF Peter Bourjos, who is off to a 0-for-13 start with his new team. St. Louis acquired Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels in an offseason trade. ... The Pirates' top pitching prospect, RHP Jameson Taillon, will undergo Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery at a date to be determined with Dr. David Altcheck performing the operation in New York. Taillon, who was scheduled to begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis, will miss 12-18 months. ... The Cardinals play their home opener Monday against the Reds with RHP Michael Wacha (0-0, 0.00) facing Cincinnati LHP Tony Cingrani (0-0, 0.00). ... The Pirates are off Monday then open a three-game series Tuesday night at Chicago with RHP Charlie Morton (0-0, 0.00) pitching against Cubs RHP Edwin Jackson (0-0, 1.29).
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