Cairo’s grand slam helps Volquez make strong return

Published 1:46 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Edinson Volquez was in control in his return to the Reds’ rotation.

Backed by Miguel Cairo’s second career grand slam, Volquez walked only two and allowed one run in a season-high seven innings in his first start since a brief stint in the minor leagues, leading Cincinnati to an 8-2 victory against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

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Volquez (4-2), recalled earlier Tuesday from Triple-A Louisville, allowed seven hits while striking out five.

“I think I did a good job, going seven innings with only two walks,” said Volquez, who worked with former Reds All-Star pitcher Mario Soto — now a special assistant to general manager Walt Jocketty — after being optioned to Louisville on May 23 with an ERA over 6.00 and 38 walks in 51 innings. “I’m trying to be more compact.”

Volquez improved his career record against Chicago to 4-0 in six starts. He also contributed two sacrifice bunts and a rally starting single as Cincinnati sent the Cubs to their eighth consecutive loss — their longest skid since losing eight in a row from May 15 through May 25 of last season.

The Reds are 6-1 this season against Chicago, including 4-0 in Cincinnati, and 18-5 over the last two seasons.

The Reds were up 4-1 in the seventh when Cairo hit a 406-foot shot to left that caromed off the facade of the second deck on a 1-1 pitch from John Grabow. It was Cairo’s first grand slam since Aug. 12, 2004, for the New York Yankees at Texas.

“I knew I hit it good,” Cairo said. “When I saw that on the replay, I said, ’Wow, I didn’t know I could hit that way.”’

Volquez, who cut his familiar dreadlocks, turned in a scoreless first inning for just the fourth time in his 11 starts this season.

“It was too hot. I’m tired of it. It was time to cut it off. I love my hair. I’m keeping it at home,” Volquez said.

The Cubs got back-to-back doubles by Aramis Ramirez and Blake DeWitt starting the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. They loaded the bases as Volquez threw 30 pitches, just 13 for strikes, before Darwin Barney grounded out to end the threat.

“I thought I wasn’t going to go deep in the game because of the second, but (pitching coach) Bryan Price told me to keep pitching and keep the ball down and I’ll go deep in the game,” said Volquez, who also focused on working more quickly. “That’s what I did. I tried to keep a good rhythm between pitches. That’s what Mario told me to do.”

Just another missed opportunity, Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

“We talked about it ad nauseum about getting people on and not getting any runs,” Quade said. “We had 10 hits again and two runs. Darwin and Blake had good games, and we didn’t have anybody else getting into it. We haven’t had a game in I don’t know when that we had a lot of guys contribute.”

Volquez said he understood when Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker sent him down following an awful start in Cleveland on May 22 that left him with a 6.35 earned-run average.

“I knew I needed it,” he said. “I was cool. I wasn’t mad. I had to do something.”

He only pitched two games, but Baker hopes they pay off for a long time.

“That was a long-term deal to help him get his stuff together,” Baker said. “He went down there and worked.”

Volquez helped the Reds tie the game in the third, following Paul Janish’s leadoff single off of Cubs left-hander Doug Davis (0-5) with a sacrifice that set up Drew Stubbs’ RBI double.

In the fourth, Jay Bruce led off by grounding a single up the middle and eventually scored on Ramon Hernandez’s sacrifice fly.

Volquez helped generate some insurance in the fifth, leading off with a ground single through the hole into left field. Stubbs followed with a single, and Davis walked Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto to force in Cincinnati’s third run. Jonny Gomes added a sacrifice fly off reliever Rodrigo Lopez

Davis, who’s lost all five of his starts since being called up on May 14 from Triple-A Iowa, allowed seven hits and four runs — all earned — with three walks and four strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings.

“It’s a new day, but it seems like everyday is the same because we’re losing,” Davis said. “I don’t know how the guys that play everyday handle it. I’ve only been out there for two of the eight. If guys are struggling everyday, that must be tougher. We could score more runs, but if I could keep the leadoff hitter off the bases, it would make it easier. Four of the five innings the leadoff hitter was on. It’s tough pitching out of the stretch so much.”

NOTES: The Reds optioned RHP Daryl Thompson to Triple-A Louisville to make room for Volquez. … LHP Aroldis Chapman’s rehab assignment was switched to Double-Carolina, mainly because of convenience with Louisville on the road. “The competition doesn’t matter as much as getting on the mound,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Right now, his competition is himself.” … Cubs left fielder Blake DeWitt had three hits for the second consecutive night and third time in his last eight games. Since May 31, he is 13-for-30 (.433), raising his overall average from .239 to .316.