Phillies-Pirates Preview

The Associated Press

Aside from one especially ugly outing, Edinson Volquez has mostly been terrific over the last six weeks.

Volquez will try to win a season-best third consecutive start as the Pittsburgh Pirates continue a three-game set against the slumping Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.

Volquez (6-6, 4.07 ERA) opened 1-4 but has turned things around. The right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last eight starts, with his only real blemish coming against Cincinnati on June 18, when he was torched for eight runs in 2 1-3 innings.

Volquez went on to throw a season-high eight innings of one-run ball in an 8-1 road win over Tampa Bay in his next start before beating the New York Mets 5-2 on Sunday.

"Sometimes, you have to take a step back to move forward," Volquez told MLB's official website. "That day (against the Reds), I had a bad game. But I responded pretty good."

Volquez yielded eight hits and a walk over six scoreless innings against the Mets while striking out a season-high seven. He managed to work his way out of trouble, stranding 11 runners.

"Jams are part of the game," he said. "The sooner you're able to regain control of the game and the turn the right page, the better."

Volquez is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA against the Phillies but hasn't faced them since 2012. He's baffled Jimmy Rollins over the years, holding him to one hit in 12 at-bats.

Philadelphia (37-49) has dropped 11 of 14 following Friday's series-opening 8-2 defeat. The Phillies, who fell behind 4-0 in the first inning, have averaged just 2.6 runs while hitting .213 during their slide.

"The way things have gone this year, it's tough for us to come back from that kind of deficit," said first baseman Ryan Howard, mired in a 3-for-25 funk. "There's no dancing around it. We've had to scratch and claw to get runs all year."

The Pirates (45-41) have won 11 of 15, including seven of nine at PNC Park. Jordy Mercer drove in a career-high four runs Friday and Andrew McCutchen collected four of the team's 13 hits, finishing a homer shy of the cycle.

McCutchen, 8 for 13 over a three-game stretch, is batting a major league-best .406 at home since April 21. He's 12 for 19 with five extra-base hits and five RBIs in his last five home games versus Philadelphia.

McCutchen will get his first look at Phillies rookie David Buchanan (4-4, 4.86), who continues to fill in for the injured Cliff Lee. The right-hander had won three consecutive starts before allowing all three runs, five hits and a season-high five walks over five innings in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Atlanta.

"You can't go out there and walk that many guys and expect to have a good outing," he said. "You've got guys making good plays behind you and you can't leave them out there for that long. It's not fair to them and it keeps me out there longer, so that's something I have to get rid of."

Buchanan has only recorded two quality starts in eight appearances. Phillies starters have gone a combined 21-38 to post the worst winning percentage in baseball.

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