"He wasn't sharp," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Volquez. "He was throwing balls to the backstop, high, low. That was just a gutsy performance by him. His control was a little off. He battled hard. We tried to again help him get that 17th [win]. It didn't happen, but we got the victory. That's what counts."
That's four wins in the last five games for the Reds.
Volquez gave up four earned runs and five hits, including two home runs, with three walks and 10 strikeouts. At 16-5 this season with a 3.23 ERA, the right-hander's second attempt for 17 wins was foiled. He is expected to have four more starts remaining, which means he'd have to go 4-0 to record 20 victories this season.
Several deep counts had Volquez on his heels early. Ray Durham led off the Brewers' first inning with a double and went to third on a flyout to right field. Following Ryan Braun's walk, Durham scored on Prince Fielder's groundout to first base.
"I didn't feel too good. I felt sick," Volquez said. "The first two pitches of the game, I felt dizzy a little bit. I started to see everything dark. It wasn't an excuse. They took good swings tonight."
In the second, Volquez issued a one-out walk to Craig Counsell before Jason Kendall hit a two-run homer to left field for a 3-1 Milwaukee lead. It was only Kendall's second homer of the season. After that, Volquez retired nine of the next 10 with seven strikeouts until J.J. Hardy went deep with a solo homer in the fifth inning to make it a 4-1 game.
"Every hitter was like 2-2, 3-2, 3-1," said Volquez, who has 23 strikeouts over his last two starts but two no-decisions. "You don't want that. You want to get ahead. You want to get hitters in three pitches or less. I tried to get a lot of ground balls tonight with my sinker. I wasn't looking for strikeouts. I want to go deep in the game. We have like 21 games left. I want to save my arm and not throw too many pitches in the game."
When Volquez put two on with two outs by walking Counsell in the sixth, Baker went to the bullpen. Mike Lincoln faced one batter and got a fly out. Nick Masset and Jared Burton (5-1) each worked a scoreless inning.
"We pitched great out of the bullpen," said closer Francisco Cordero, who notched his 28th save with a flawless ninth inning. "We held a 4-2 [deficit] and scored three in the ninth."
The Reds' lineup didn't seem poised to help Volquez while facing Brewers starter Dave Bush, who pitched eight innings. In the top of the fourth, Cincinnati had the bases loaded with no outs and came up empty after a Paul Bako double play and Volquez pop out. Bush retired a stretch of 13 of the next 14.
"You've got to keep playing," Baker said. "I was hoping we'd get some more opportunities. We did. We got a big opportunity in the ninth."
Joey Votto hit his 19th homer of the season on a solo shot to left field with two outs in the eighth off Bush to make it a two-run game. Facing Salomon Torres in the top of the ninth, Jay Bruce and Wilkin Castillo opened with back-to-back lined singles. Pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson walked on five pitches and loaded the bases with no outs. After pinch-hitter Javier Valentin struck out, Corey Patterson lined a single off Torres' foot to score a run.
Torres (6-5) continued after a brief stoppage to be looked at by the trainer. When play resumed, Keppinger pulled a drive to the left-field wall that scored Castillo and Dickerson.
Until the ninth, the lineup's top two hitters -- Patterson and Keppinger -- were 0-for-8.
"They were scuffling during the night, but they had some big hits at the end," Baker said. "Corey's ball was a base hit up the middle had Salomon not knocked it down. I was hoping it wouldn't hurt us. But we got a big, big hit out of Keppinger."
And Volquez was taken off the hook.
"Tonight, I was all over the place," Volquez said. "I was so happy we came back to win the game."