MILWAUKEE -- If Tuesday was a concert, fans might marvel over the fantastic light show and effects -- aka the Reds' lineup -- produced with a season-high-tying 19 hits during a 12-4 win over the Brewers. But that wouldn't totally diminish some concerns that the lead singer for the night -- aka starting pitcher Edinson Volquez -- was off-key with his performance. In his third start with the Reds after recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery, Volquez lacked command and labored through 3 2/3 innings. He threw a whopping 95 pitches, only 54 for strikes, and gave up four runs, six hits and four walks.
"My arm is very good right now. My whole body is strong. I just can't throw a strike," said Volquez, who did not pitch long enough to qualify for the victory. Because of the Cardinals' (55-45) loss to the Mets, the Reds (56-46) moved to one percentage point out of first place in the National League Central. The Reds gave Volquez leads of 2-0, 5-1 and 6-3 over the first three innings, but they didn't feel safe. Milwaukee sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning, with a leadoff single and double leading to a run on Ryan Braun's groundout, but they also left the bases loaded. In the second, Volquez gave up a two-run homer to pitcher Yovani Gallardo. The next batter, Rickie Weeks, walked on four pitches, but Volquez got three-straight groundouts to second base. Still, he was at 56 pitches through two innings. Weeks led off the fourth inning with a home run to left field. Fortunately, the Reds kept hitting and hitting and hitting against Gallardo (9-5), who allowed six runs and 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings. It was a welcome change from the previous two nights, when they were held scoreless in 17 of 18 innings combined. The top four members of the Reds' order -- Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera, Joey Votto and Scott Rolen -- combined to go 15-for-22 (.682) with seven RBIs and eight runs scored. Phillips and Votto were 4-for-6 and Rolen was 4-for-4 as he snapped a 0-for-16 stretch. "It's a shame that Volquez wasn't able to stick around and get the 'W' today," Votto said. "But it was the hitters' game today. It was a good day for all of us. Three and four-hit games are rare. When you get them all in a bunch, that usually means good things for us." None of the Reds' hits resulted in a home run, but they kept the thing churning by sending at least six men to the plate in six of their nine innings. Cincinnati took a 2-0 lead in the first when Votto hit a RBI single and later scored on a wild pitch to Jay Bruce. Three more runs crossed in the second on an RBI double by Ramon Hernandez and RBI singles by Phillips and Rolen. "It felt like anything I threw up there was going to get hit," said Gallardo, who was done after Phillips' RBI single in the third inning. "They hit some ground balls, but they were up the middle or in the hole. It just stinks." The only Brewers pitcher to have much success was Trevor Hoffman, who worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Milwaukee's right fielder, Joe Inglett, pitched the ninth and despite not throwing anything over 55 mph, also recorded a perfect inning. "The key is we got a lot of two-out, RBI hits," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "If you get two-out RBIs most of the time, you're going to win. That's what's been eluding us lately. We just kept the merry-go-round going with guys on the bases, their pitcher in the stretch and them on defense. Sooner or later, you can wear them down." By the time Hernandez hit a sixth-inning, two-out, two-run double, Volquez was already long gone, and reliever Logan Ondrusek (2-0) was in line for the victory with 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Volquez's end came when he walked Prince Fielder with two outs in the fourth inning. "I thought, 'I got it, I can get a "W."' Then I came out for the fourth, I was at 80-some pitches," Volquez said. "[Baker] took me out with 95 pitches. There's nothing I can do, but talk to Bryan [Price, the pitching coach], watch video and be ready for my next start." Volquez might have set the bar high after his first start on July 17, when he buried the Rockies with one run allowed over six innings and nine strikeouts. His most recent start, against the Nationals, covered only 2 1/3 innings. Over his past two starts, he's given up 10 runs, 11 hits and eight walks. When Cincinnati activated Volquez for the second half, it was viewed as the equivalent of trading for an All-Star pitcher -- especially after he went 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA in six rehab assignment starts in the Minors. But it's clear that some kinks need to be worked out before the right-hander regains consistent All-Star form. "I still have a problem with my mechanics," Volquez said. "My arm is good. My speed is very good. I just can't put it together with my mechanics. I'm going to start working with Bryan in the next couple of days to see if we can fix it. I have to step up and throw strikes and we need to win."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.