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Reds-Astros Preview 2008-07-30

Reds-Astros Preview 2008-07-30
In his first season with the Cincinnati Reds, Edinson Volquez has emerged as one of the top Dominican pitchers in the majors.

Lately, however, the gap between Volquez and Houston Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has closed considerably.

Squaring off against Rodriguez in a matchup of Dominican starters having career seasons, Volquez looks to rebound from some uncharacteristically shaky outings and help the Reds snap their losing streak against the Astros in the finale of a three-game series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

Before joining the Reds (50-58) in an offseason trade from Texas, Volquez was 3-11 with a 7.20 ERA in 20 major-league games - 17 starts - spanning three seasons.

Long considered one of the Rangers' top prospects, the right-hander finally put it all together this season, going 12-3 with a 2.29 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 117 2-3 innings in the first half and making his first All-Star team.

In two second-half outings, however, Volquez (12-4, 2.77 ERA) has gone 0-1 while allowing nine runs and 15 hits in nine innings. He gave up five runs in four innings of a 7-2 loss to Colorado on Friday night.

"I just think I'm doing something different mechanically," said Volquez, who has never faced Houston. "I need to get into the video room and try to figure it out. I'm not hitting my spots like before."

Meanwhile, Rodriguez (6-3, 3.18) has matched a career high by winning three consecutive starts, lowering his ERA to 1.40 points below his previous career best of 4.58, set last season. Among Dominican starters that have started at least two games, only Volquez has a better ERA.

Rodriguez held Milwaukee to one run and three hits while striking out seven in six innings as the Astros (50-56) beat the Brewers 3-1 on Friday night.

"Wandy was magnificent tonight," Astros manager Cecil Cooper told the team's official Web site. "... When he pitches like this, he is pretty tough to beat."

Rodriguez, who's 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in seven career starts against the Reds, hopes to help the Astros to their ninth straight win in the series. Houston got a grand slam from Carlos Lee in a 6-2 victory Tuesday night to extend the streak, which includes wins in the clubs' first four meetings this season.

Houston hasn't had a longer win streak against Cincinnati since taking 12 in a row from July 31, 2004-April 15, 2005.

The Astros, winners of four of five overall after dropping their previous four, will have a good shot of continuing their dominance in the series if Lee can stay hot. He's batting .377 with nine homers, 34 RBIs and 18 runs scored over his last 33 games, and has hit safely in 14 straight contests at Minute Maid Park, posting a .421 batting average in that stretch.

Lee credits the entire Houston offense for the club's recent success.

"We're doing a lot better job trying to get on base and create some situations, put some people in scoring position," he said. "Kaz (Matsui) is doing really good. Miggy (Tejada), in the second spot, he's come on, getting on base, even walking. That's what we needed - create situations and give us opportunities to score runs."

In addition to its losing streak against Houston, Cincinnati has also dropped a season high-tying five straight and seven of nine overall.

"We've just got to come back and win this game tomorrow," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: July 30, 2008

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