Edinson Volquez enters his start against the Phillies on Saturday on a nice groove.
The Pirates right-hander threw six scoreless innings while dancing around eight hits against the Mets in his latest outing, a 5-2 Pittsburgh win on June 29.
In three of Volquez's past four starts, he has allowed one or no runs. He shut out the Cubs over seven frames on June 12, then tossed an eight-inning, one-run gem June 23 against the Rays.
But a horrendous outing in which he surrendered eight runs in 2 1/3 innings to the Reds on June 18 was sandwiched between those two starts.
"Sometimes, you have to take a step back to move forward," Volquez said after his previous tart. "That day [against the Reds], I had a bad game. But I responded pretty good [against the Rays], and today I pitched a really good game."
Volquez's ERA has deflated to 4.07 -- lower than his season total in every year since 2008. The often-erratic Volquez has curtailed his walks to 2.9 per nine innings -- compared with a career average of 4.6 -- in his 17 appearances (16 starts) this season.
Although Volquez pitched in the National League in each of the past two years, one must look back to 2012 for his most recent matchup against the Phillies.
He faced Philadelphia twice that season, allowing four runs in 12 innings.
Opposing Volquez on Saturday will be David Buchanan, who made his MLB debut on May 24 in place of injured starter Cliff Lee. But with Lee nearing a return -- he makes his first rehab start Sunday -- Buchanan's opportunities to prove that he still deserves a spot in the rotation are becoming scarce.
In Buchanan's eight starts since Lee went on the DL, he has fared reasonably well given the circumstances.
He brings a 4-4 record and a 4.86 ERA into Saturday afternoon's matchup with the Pirates. Buchanan has allowed three runs or fewer in four straight starts, but three of those starts lasted only five innings.
The rookie's most recent outing came Sunday, when the Braves roughed him up in the Phillies' 3-2 loss. All three runs were scored under Buchanan's watch, and Atlanta boarded 10 baserunners during his five innings.
Buchanan took the loss after three wins in his previous three outings. He has never faced the Pirates.
Pirates: Frieri struggling with new team
Despite donning a new uniform in the past week, reliever Ernesto Frieri has not experienced dramatically different results.
The Pirates and the Angels completed a trade of exiled closers on June 27, Frieri for former Pirates closer Jason Grilli.
In Frieri's first three appearances with his new team, he has allowed eight hits and five runs in 2 1/3 innings.
His most recent, and volatile, blowup came on Thursday against the D-backs, who tagged him for five runs in just one-third of an inning.
Frieri's ERA sits at 7.29 after the 10-2 loss.
"He seemed to find the middle more often than not [Thursday]," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The secondary pitch didn't play at all, which makes it tough, also. But there wasn't anything but angst about wanting to do better and getting better."
Phillies: Brown returns
Domonic Brown appeared in Philadelphia's 8-2 loss Friday in a pinch-hit capacity.
Brown had been away from the team since Tuesday, when the outfielder went on paternity leave for the birth of his daughter.
He grounded out to first base for the final out of the game, against Pirates reliever Jeanmar Gomez.
Brown is hitting .224 with five home runs and a .277 on-base percentage this season.
• As a team, the Phillies are hitting .212/.293/.273 against Volquez with 20 strikeouts in 66 at-bats.
• Andrew McCutchen finished 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs in his team's win Friday night.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.