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News » Reds-Astros Preview 2009-04-19

Reds-Astros Preview 2009-04-19

Reds-Astros Preview 2009-04-19
Edinson Volquez's first half last season earned him a spot on the NL All-Star team, but his performance from mid-July on wasn't nearly as sharp.

His start to 2009 has been even shakier.

Volquez will try to get back on track Sunday as the Cincinnati Reds play the finale of a three-game set in Houston, but he'll have a suddenly improving Astros' offense standing in his way.

Volquez (1-1, 9.64 ERA) was one of baseball's biggest surprises after coming over from Texas in a December 2007 deal, going 12-3 with a 2.29 ERA prior to the All-Star break.

The right-hander gave up two runs in an inning in his first appearance at the midseason classic, perhaps a bad omen for a second half that would see Volquez's ERA double to 4.60.

He posted a 1.12 ERA in six spring training games, but that success hasn't carried over to the regular season. Volquez gave up five runs - four earned - in 4 1-3 innings in a loss in his first start, and had a similar line Monday in Milwaukee despite picking up a victory.

He yielded six runs and seven hits - including two homers - over five innings as the Reds (5-5) won 7-6.

"The league watched him pitch last year," pitching coach Dick Pole told the team's official Web site. "It looks like they're trying to make him throw more strikes earlier in the count. They're making him throw a lot of pitches. He's going to have to adjust back to the league. He'll do that."

Last season, Volquez didn't have much of a problem dealing with the Astros (4-7), going 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA while striking out 14 in 13 2-3 innings. Both of those starts came at Minute Maid Park after the break.

This time, he'll be facing an offense that has improved after scoring just 16 runs during a 1-6 start. The Astros have put up 18 runs while winning three of their last four, and had their best offensive output yet on Saturday in a 7-0 win behind three hits and three RBIs from Geoff Blum.

Houston's outburst came despite missing two infielders. Second baseman Kaz Matsui (.214) sat out his fourth straight game with a strained back and Jeff Keppinger missed his second in a row with a lower back strain. It's unclear if either will return Sunday.

The Astros' staff has given up just six runs in its last four games, and will send Felipe Paulino to the mound to make his season debut, a move made after struggling starter Brian Moehler was injured earlier this week.

Paulino was in the mix for the fifth starter's spot in spring training, but didn't pitch well. He has, however, had two good outings in Triple-A, yielding one run while striking out 12 in 12 innings.

"I don't feel any differently than I did during spring training, but I'm more ready to pitch," Paulino told the Astros' official Web site. "Everything is coming along well. After they sent me down to the (minors), I tried to work on my mechanics."

One of Paulino's two wins in the majors came against the Reds on Sept. 25, 2007, when he gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings in an 8-5 victory.

One of those runs came on a homer from Joey Votto, who is hitting .385 with two homers and 10 RBIs, batting safely in nine of 10 games.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 19, 2009

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