PITTSBURGH (AP) — It seemed every time the St. Louis Cardinals hit a ball hard Sunday a Pittsburgh Pirates fielder was there to make the play.
Sometimes it was just good conventional defense that stymied the Cardinals' hitters. Other times, the Pirates' shifts made the difference.
The Cardinals managed just three hits as Edinson Volquez pitched well for 5 2-3 innings before Tony Sanchez hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the seventh inning to give the Pirates a 2-1 victory.
"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 the shift is having an effect on them. We just want our hitters to think about playing to their strengths instead of worrying about shifts."
The right-hander had a 5.71 earned run average with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. That was the worst mark among the 81 major league pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.
However, Volquez looked like he was worth the one-year, $5-million contract Sunday following a spring in which he allowed 15 runs in 13 innings.
"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. "He pitched a gem."
Sanchez's double to deep center field with two outs came off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (1-1) and snapped a 1-1 tie.
The hit by the rookie reserve catcher scored Pedro Alvarez, who led off the inning with a walk, and was Sanchez's 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 Cubs.
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