Volquez ends tough year with solid effort

Published 1:49 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Edinson Volquez’s wild journey this season ended on a positive note.

Volquez worked a season high-tying seven innings for the Cincinnati Reds in a 3-0 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday.

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“I thinks it’s my best outing since I came back from Triple-A,” said Volquez, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008.

Volquez (5-7) gave up a bunt single to Jose Reyes, who was trying to win the NL batting title, in the first but didn’t allow another batter to reach until Willie Harris walked with one out in the fourth. David Wright and Nick Evans then hit back-to-back singles to give the Mets the lead.

“He pitched well enough to win,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s gotten back to throwing strikes. He found the strike zone again. Cut down on his base on balls, his future is still very bright.”

Cincinnati only managed two hits off Miguel Batista (5-2) in the finale of a disappointing season, winding up at 79-83 after winning the NL Central last year with a 91-71 record.

“We’re going to work on our areas of improvement,” Baker said. “Getting our front line guys back out there, stay healthy. That’s what winters are for, to build and enhance.”

Volquez only had to deal with Reyes once. The speedy shortstop was lifted for a pinch runner after the bunt hit, a move fans at Citi Field did not like and showed it with lusty boos from the modest crowd announced at 28,816.

“It was kind of tough,” Reyes said. “I want to stay in the game. They have to understand, too, what’s going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the battling title.”

Terry Collins, finishing up his first year as Mets manager, had to fight back tears as he explained why he took out Reyes so early.

“I understand. I heard some comments in the stands. I don’t blame them. People pay a good price to come to these games. You’ve got to understand that I ask these players to do a lot,” Collins said before taking a long pause. “We worked hard to get their respect this year, and they deserve ours.”

Volquez’s only mistake came in the sixth inning, when Mike Baxter hit a two-run drive to right-center for his first major league homer.

“The ball was supposed to be away, and it came back in and up a little bit,” Baker said.

Volquez started on opening day for Cincinnati. But he struggled from the start and made two trips to Triple-A Louisville to figure out his control problems, returning from his last stint on Sept. 3.

The right-hander walked 65 batters in 108 2-3 innings this season but walked just one Wednesday for only the second time in 20 starts this year. After giving up three runs Wednesday, he finished with a 5.71 ERA.

He turned down a multiyear offer last offseason and is arbitration eligible.

“I want to stay here,” he said. “I want to pitch here for the rest of my career.”

Reyes also doesn’t know where he is going to end up. One of the most coveted free-agents-to-be, Reyes could have been playing his final game with the Mets — and he had a lot at stake.

The bunt single elevated Reyes’ average to .337057 and gave him a 2 1/2-point lead over Ryan Braun, who was at .334525 heading into Milwaukee’s regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. The Mets have never had a batting champion, but Braun could edge out Reyes by going 3 for 4.

Signed by the Mets as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Reyes can become a free agent after the World Series ends. In a season interrupted by leg injuries that caused two stints on the disabled list, he scored 101 runs and led the majors with 16 triples.

“I always say, I want to stay here,” Reyes said. “We’re going to see what happens in a few weeks in a few weeks. I just need to sit down with my agent and make a plan.”

Fans chanced “Please stay, Jose!” throughout the ninth inning, and he gave a salute as he was walking off the field. Chants of “Jose Reyes!” continued after he threw his hat into the stands.

Reyes planned to host 15 to 20 friends at his home for a viewing party Wednesday night. If he wins the title, friends in the Dominican Republic intend to hold a parade for him in his hometown.

Batista (5-2) pitched his 11th complete game, his first since July 19, 2006, for Arizona against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed a one-out single to Edgar Renteria in the first and a leadoff double to Chris Heisey in the second.

Before the game, Baker said the Reds were playing to “get off those nines,” but Batista was able to keep Joey Votto and Jay Bruce from rounding out their numbers. Votto went 0 for 3 to end the season with 29 homers and Bruce failed to get the three RBIs he needed for 100.

NOTES: The Mets honored groundskeeper Pete Flynn, who is retiring after 50 years with the organization. … The Reds’ Drew Stubbs ended Mark Reynolds’ run of three straight years leading majors in strikeouts. Stubbs struck out 205 times and Reynolds had 195 heading into the Orioles’ season finale Wednesday night.