Cincinnati (36-43) at Toronto (37-42)

Cloudy Currently: Toronto, ON
Temp: 66° F
  • Game info: 7:07 pm EDT Thu Jun 26, 2008
  • TV: FSOH, RSN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A switch to the NL has helped the Cincinnati RedsEdinson Volquez establish himself among the best pitchers in the majors. The young starter, though, hasn’t eased up against his former AL opponents.

Volquez looks for his third win in interleague play this season Thursday as the Reds try to take the decisive contest of their three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Prior to joining Cincinnati (36-43) in the offseason, Volquez (10-2 , 1.71 ERA) spent parts of three seasons with Texas, going 3-11 in 20 appearances from 2005-07. The Rangers dealt the right-hander in December for center fielder Josh Hamilton, who currently leads the majors with 76 RBIs.

But Volquez has also done well on his end of the deal as he leads the majors in ERA, strikeouts (110) and opponent batting average (.196). A win Thursday would also move the All-Star hopeful into a tie for the major league lead in wins, a mark shared by Joe Saunders of the Los Angeles Angels and Arizona ace Brandon Webb.

The 24-year-old has limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 15 starts. On Friday, he held the New York Yankees to just two runs and seven hits, while fanning five in seven innings of a 4-2 road victory.

“He was sharp, didn’t look like the crowd or Yankee Stadium bothered him at all,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I mean he was out there just as poised as we’d always seen him.”

Volquez improved to 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in three career interleague starts - all this year.

Though Thursday will mark his first appearance against the Blue Jays (37-42), Volquez has won three straight starts on the road, where he is 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in eight starts in 2008.

The Reds are just 15-26 away from home, but improved to 3-2 on their current nine-game swing with a 6-5, 10-inning victory Wednesday.

Rookie star Jay Bruce drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the 10th to help the Reds bounce back after losing 14-1 in Tuesday’s series opener.

“We were able to get the run when we needed it,” said Ken Griffey, Jr., who hit his 602nd career homer Wednesday and drove in two runs. “That’s important.”

Cincinnati was without third baseman Edwin Encarnacion for a second straight game because of back spasms, but could activate infielder Jerry Hairston, Jr. (broken left thumb) on Thursday. The Reds are 5-9 without Hairston, who was batting .336 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 40 games.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have lost eight of their last 10 overall and fell to 2-3 under new manager Cito Gaston.

“We had a lot of opportunities to win that game,” Gaston said. “You don’t like to lose ballgames like that. That’s a tough loss for us.”

To avoid an eighth straight series loss, the Blue Jays send 23-year-old Jesse Litsch (7-4, 4.06) to the mound.

Litsch went 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his first 11 appearances of 2008, but has since gone 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in four starts - all in June.

On Saturday, the right-hander was tagged for a season-high six runs - including three homers - and five hits in six innings of a 6-3 defeat at Pittsburgh.

“I’ve go to work through it,” Litsch told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “Ups and downs are part of the game, but this is definitely frustrating.”

Litsch is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA in four career interleague games, but has never faced the Reds.

Toronto took two of three from the Reds in Cincinnati in 2003 in the teams’ only other series.

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Starting Pitchers

E. Vólquez KC vs. J. Litsch Tor
17-6 Record 13-9
3.21 ERA 3.58
206 K 99
93 BB 39
1.33 WHIP 1.23

Scoreboard

Thursday, Jun 26