Four losses later, they’re trying to find their way out of the cellar.
The Reds will turn to Volquez, baseball’s new ERA leader, on Friday as they continue a four-game road set with the San Diego Padres while hoping to avoid their third five-game losing streak of 2008.
Cincinnati (21-27) swept NL East-leading Florida from May 12-14, then did the same to Cleveland for a perfect homestand and its first six-game winning streak since last Aug. 21-26.
But since the Reds left for the West Coast, everything’s gone wrong once again for manager Dusty Baker’s team. They’ve dropped four straight while scoring only 10 total runs.
Cincinnati’s latest effort was another offensive struggle, as it could only muster five hits in an 8-2 loss to the Padres (18-31) on Thursday. Aaron Harang, one of the NL’s most durable and consistent pitchers the past two seasons, fell to 2-6.
While Harang has struggled, Volquez (7-1, 1.33 ERA) has emerged as the Reds’ most consistent pitcher - and one of baseball’s best. Volquez outpitched Cleveland’s Cliff Lee in his last outing, surrendering two runs over six innings on Saturday in Cincinnati’s 6-4 win and overtaking Lee for the lowest ERA in the majors.
“That’s what I’m looking for,” said Volquez, who has won three consecutive starts. “I want to be somebody special in the big leagues.”
One player who long ago reached that status gave the Reds their lone highlight Thursday. Ken Griffey Jr. homered for the first time in 24 games and 90 at-bats, finally achieving the 598th home run of his career. Only six players in major league history have hit 600.
“He’s swinging the bat pretty good,” Baker said. “He’s getting close to getting his stride together. Now we have to get some other guys to get their strokes together.”
Griffey has never homered off Padres starter Shawn Estes (1-0, 2.13) in seven career at-bats.
In his two starts in 2008, Estes has looked good for someone who didn’t pitch in the major leagues last season due to reconstructive elbow surgery.
The veteran left-hander went 6 1-3 innings on Sunday in Seattle, allowing just one run on two hits, but didn’t get a decision in San Diego’s 3-2 loss.
“He’s done very well in his two starts,” Padres manager Bud Black told the team’s official Web site. “We hope we can keep it going. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence.”
Estes is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his last four starts against Cincinnati dating back to 2003.
They’re scoring a major league worst 3.4 runs per game, and Thursday marked the first time they’d put up eight runs since April 26.
Shortstop Khalil Greene hit two of the Padres’ four homers - the first time they’d hit more than two this season.
“It’s nice to be able to come back after a symbolically low point,” said Greene, who’s hitting .301 with five homers and 15 RBIs in his career against Cincinnati. “We did a lot of things well.”