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CHC@CIN: Volquez tosses seven strong innings

CINCINNATI -- Edinson Volquez lost the long hair and found himself feeling good again on the mound.

It was an important night for the Reds, who need an effective Volquez to have a legitimate shot to repeat as National League Central champs. His exile to Triple-A Louisville was brief but necessary and seemed to prove effective. He pitched seven innings for the Reds as they took an 8-2 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night.

"We knew he was coming back. I didn't have him as Opening Day starter for nothing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I knew what he could do. It was a matter of him executing and doing it."

His familiar dreadlocks shorn, Volquez gave up one earned run and seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

"I got my haircut last night. It was too hot, the weather," Volquez said. "I was tired, too, three years of long hair. I decided to cut it out."

Volquez also cut out many of the negatives that had plagued him this season. His two-start stint at Louisville included tutoring from Bats pitching coach Ted Power and Reds special assistant Mario Soto. His delivery was more fluid and his rhythm a little quicker.

The final pitch of Volquez's scoreless first inning was a 96-mph fastball that blew away Carlos Pena.

"He was locating his fastball a lot better. That's the Volquez we knew from before," Baker said.

Volquez then labored to get through a lengthy second inning and, at one point, had more balls than strikes thrown. It started with Aramis Ramirez's leadoff double past the outstretched glove of right fielder Jay Bruce. Ramirez scored on next batter Blake DeWitt's double to right field that made it 1-0.

A two-out walk to Kosuke Fukudome gave Chicago a bases-loaded chance, but Volquez escaped with no more runs crossing by getting Darwin Barney to ground out to second base.

"To tell you the truth, I thought I wouldn't go deep in the game because that second inning was long. I threw 30 pitches," said Volquez, who finished with 105 pitches. "After that, [pitching coach] Bryan Price came to me and told me to, 'Keep pitching, keep the ball down and you'll go deep in the game.' That's what I did."

In the bottom of the third against Cubs lefty Doug Davis, Drew Stubbs tied the game with an RBI double to left field that scored Paul Janish. In the fourth, Bruce scored the go-ahead run on a Ramon Hernandez sacrifice fly.

In the fifth, the Reds had a bases-loaded, no-out rally and Joey Votto at the plate. Votto fought Davis for a full-count walk that forced home a run, but after Bruce struck out, Jonny Gomes just missed a three-run homer and settled for a sacrifice fly to the right-field warning track that scored Stubbs for a three-run lead.

There was a bigger bounty from the Reds' second bases-loaded, no-out rally in the seventh inning against John Grabow. With one out, Cairo hit the second grand slam of his career into the facing of the upper-deck bleachers in left field to put the game away.

Although the Cubs accumulated 10 hits overall, they didn't get a runner to second base against Volquez after the second inning. DeWitt began the fourth with a single but was later erased with an inning-ending double play. Volquez began the sixth issuing a four-pitch walk to Pena but followed by getting Ramirez to hit a sinking 95-mph fastball into a 6-4-3 double play.

"His command was OK," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Volquez. "You always wonder if he gets stuff started and can't finish it, then how much credit do you give to the pitcher, because we did get some things started. He was OK. I'm not giving him that much credit."

The Reds were certainly giving credit to Volquez, who gave them back-to-back strong outings vs. the Cubs. Mike Leake pitched eight innings for the win on Monday. Still, Cincinnati's rotation entered the night ranked 14th in the NL with a 4.41 ERA and the 32-30 third-place club is five games behind first-place St. Louis.

"We've got a pretty good pitching staff," Cairo said. "We need to start getting going. It's already June. The heat is here. We have to take advantage of those other pitchers getting tired. Hopefully our pitchers, they get hot and start pitching good."

When the Reds had last seen Volquez he was hitting bottom on May 22 during a 2 2/3-inning start with seven runs allowed for a loss at Cleveland. He was demoted the following day, as he had a 6.35 ERA with 38 walks and 53 hits allowed in 51 innings.

No hard feelings, according to Volquez.

"I knew I needed it. I was cool," Volquez said. "I wasn't mad with anybody because I was struggling in the big leagues. I had to do something. I went back to Triple-A and made the adjustments and came back to the big leagues like I did tonight." Comments