Volquez shines in final All-Star tuneup

Volquez shines in final All-Star tuneup

MILWAUKEE -- Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez's next appearance will likely be under the brightest lights on one of the biggest stages.

The All-Star Game. New York. Yankee Stadium.

Before he could have fun in the big city, Volquez had business to attend to in Milwaukee. The right-hander pitched like the All-Star he is during the Reds' 8-2 win over the Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park. His line: two runs -- one earned -- over seven innings, allowing six hits and two walks while fanning 10.

"I felt great tonight," said Volquez, the Reds' lone 2008 All-Star. "I told Edwin [Encarnacion] I'm going to have a great night tonight because I felt good."

This was another big win for the Reds (46-49), who have improved to 3-2 on their six-game road trip, with Sunday's first-half finale remaining against new Brewers ace CC Sabathia.

Now 12-3 with a 2.29 ERA, Volquez temporarily holds leads in two-thirds of the National League pitching Triple Crown. While second in wins behind Brandon Webb, he's the NL ERA leader and tied with Tim Lincecum for the strikeouts lead with 126. (Lincecum should regain the strikeout lead when he starts for the Giants on Sunday.)

"Anytime he's on the mound, we feel great -- we have a great opportunity to win the ballgame," said shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr., who was 4-for-4 with a walk and two doubles. "It doesn't matter who we're playing. That's a great feeling."

Adam Dunn's three-run home run in the first inning -- his first of two in the game -- gave the Reds an early 3-0 lead. Cincinnati was otherwise stymied by Brewers starter Seth McClung (5-5), who gave up just one single to Hairston for the rest of his 6 1/3-inning night.

Still, Volquez had enough room to do his thing. The 25-year-old retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced, five via strikeouts. In a 1-2-3 second inning, he tossed just eight pitches.

"You know with Volkie, you're not going to need to score too many runs," said Dunn after his first multi-homer night of this season. "Anytime we get a lead early with him on the mound, we'll feel pretty confident."

In the Brewers' fourth, Hairston flubbed a routine grounder from leadoff batter Ryan Braun for an error. The next batter, Prince Fielder, smoked a 1-0 Volquez fastball into the left-field bullpen and made it 3-2.

Volquez retired the rest of the side in order in the fourth and worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fifth. With runners on first and second, Encarnacion made a superb diving stop towards the third-base line on Braun's sharp grounder. Braun had to settle for an infield single.

"What saved the game really was that play Edwin made down there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That was a tremendous play, because if they had scored more runs, we'd have to make some decisions."

Volquez then saved himself. Facing Fielder again, he threw three straight changeups -- including one with a 2-0 count -- and got an inning-ending grounder to second base.

"I think it was one of the great nights for me tonight," Volquez said. "All my pitches were there tonight. I made good pitches, especially when I got the bases loaded. I threw the right pitch. I was behind in the count, 2-0, and that's when the changeup came."

On his second-to-last pitch of the game in the seventh (No. 113), Volquez reached 97 mph on the radar gun.

After Volquez departed, the Reds blew the game open. Hairston collected his third hit on a one-out double to left field in the eighth, scoring on Ken Griffey Jr.'s rolling two-out single through the right side. In a four-run ninth, Dunn led off with his 26th homer of the season, another shot to right field. Encarnacion made it back-to-back long balls with a homer to left field.

Of Volquez's 19 starts this season, a team-leading 14 have been quality outings and only four have seen more than two earned runs scored. He had two subpar outings at the end of June and beginning of July, but Volquez is heading into the break with back-to-back strong performances.

All that's left to learn is Volquez's assignment at the All-Star Game. He is a potential candidate to start the game, especially with Webb and Lincecum both scheduled to pitch on Sunday.

"I wanted him to go there on a high, on a positive," Baker said. "He's going there with quite a few pitches. [NL manager] Clint Hurdle called me today, but I didn't get a chance to speak with him. He wanted to know how much he could ask of [Volquez]. On two days' rest, it's not very long. We'll see after I talk to Clint."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.