Rolen homers, helps Jays beat Reds again

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2008

The Associated Press

TORONTO — Even before the game began, Edinson Volquez knew this wasn’t going to be his day.

Volquez was tagged for a season-high seven runs, including two on a home run by Scott Rolen, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-1 on Thursday night.

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The hard-throwing right-hander, who was 3-0 in his previous five starts, struggled with his command, his footing on the mound and was gone after 4 1-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

‘‘I threw too many strikes in the bullpen,’’ Volquez said. ‘‘I don’t like that. When I was in the minor leagues, every time I threw too many strikes in the bullpen, in the game it didn’t work.’’

Jesse Litsch (8-4) pitched eight sharp innings for the Blue Jays, allowing one run and three hits to win for the first time since beating Oakland on May 29.

‘‘He was masterful,’’ Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘He’s probably the best No. 5 starter we’ve seen. He mixed up a lot of breaking balls, cutters and changeups and then he’d catch you looking for that and throw the fastball by you.’’

Volquez entered with a major league-best 1.71 ERA but saw that rise to 2.08 after giving up five earned runs. He had allowed three runs or fewer in each of his previous 16 appearances this season.

‘‘You knew it was going to happen sooner or later,’’ Baker said.

‘‘He’s been on a tremendous roll. He didn’t have command of his fastball and it looked like their game plan was sitting on his changeup because they hit his changeup pretty good.’’

The 24-year-old Volquez had no trouble with the bullpen mound, but never got comfortable once he moved to the field.

‘‘I think it was a little bit different,’’ he said. ‘‘It was a little high and flat in the front. I didn’t like landing on this mound. It made my back tight a little bit on the right side.’’

The Rogers Centre mound posed no problems for Litsch, who retired the first 10 batters he faced before Adam Dunn’s one-out double in the fourth. Dunn went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Phillips.

‘‘I love the mound here,’’ Litsch said. ‘‘It’s one of the best. It varies wherever you go. Every mound is different.’’

Rolen connected in the second inning for his sixth homer of the season and third in four games. His RBI double in the fifth made it 7-1.

Toronto is averaging more than six runs per game since Cito Gaston took over as manager last Friday despite getting shut out 1-0 in Gaston’s debut.

‘‘We’re definitely swinging the bats better,’’ Rolen said. ‘‘We’ve got a nice little thing going here now.’’

Left-hander Brian Tallet worked the ninth for Toronto.

Sloppy fielding by Volquez helped the Blue Jays add to their lead in the third. With runners at first and second, Alex Rios grounded back to the mound but Volquez threw high to shortstop Jerry Hairston, whose relay was too late to catch Rios.

Vernon Wells drove in a run with a fielder’s choice and Lyle Overbay tacked on a two-run single to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead.

‘‘With that hit there, we kind of put the nail in the coffin,’’ Wells said of Overbay’s single. ‘‘Those add-on runs are huge.’’

The Reds are 15-27 in road games this year. Only Colorado (28) has lost more often away from home.

Hairston batted leadoff and went 1-for-4 in his first start after missing 14 games with a broken left thumb. Infielder Paul Janish was optioned to Triple-A Louisville to make room on the roster.

Notes: Ken Griffey Jr., who was the DH all three games in Toronto, will play the outfield Friday and Saturday at Cleveland and DH again Sunday, manager Dusty Baker said. … With RHP Shaun Marcum (right elbow) on the 15-day DL, Toronto will promote LHP John Parrish from Triple-A Syracuse to start against Atlanta on Saturday.