While Cook’s struggles seem to be continuing, Volquez appears to have regained his form.
The Reds (57-72) thought they had a future star when they traded Josh Hamilton for Volquez (15-5, 2.73 ERA) in the offseason, but instead, he instantly became one of the NL’s best pitchers. Volquez began his career in Cincinnati 9-2 with a 1.56 ERA, striking out 96 batters in 81 innings.
He was 12-3 with a 2.29 ERA at the All-Star break, but got off to a rough start in the second half, going 1-2 with a 6.64 ERA in his first four starts. Volquez, though, seems to have made some adjustments. He gave up a single run over 6 2-3 innings in a win at Pittsburgh on Aug. 12, then shut out St. Louis on three hits over seven innings on Sunday in a 7-3 victory.
“Nobody goes the whole year without scuffling,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the team’s official Web site. “Everybody was worried about him, saying he was tired. He’s caught his second wind.”
Volquez was tied for fourth in the majors with 126 strikeouts at the All-Star break, but he’s only struck out 24 in six second-half starts. He says he’s trying to evolve into more of a ground-ball pitcher, and he got 11 outs that way against St. Louis.
“I was struggling a little bit last month,” he said. “Sometimes I try to strike guys out too much. I’m a sinkerball guy now, a ground-ball guy.”
Cincinnati got a similarly strong start from Aaron Harang in the opener against the Rockies (59-71) on Friday. Harang tossed six shutout innings as the Reds jumped out to an 8-0 lead thanks to a two-run homer from Brandon Phillips and three hits apiece from Jeff Keppinger and Joey Votto. They held on to win 8-5, handing Colorado its seventh home loss in nine games.
“It’s never easy in this ballpark,” Baker said.
That victory snapped Cincinnati’s five-game losing streak to the Rockies, which included a three-game sweep last month. The Reds were outscored 23-3 in those three contests.
Volquez and Cook faced off in the opener of that series, and Cook (15-8, 3.86) got the better of the matchup. The Colorado right-hander allowed one run and five hits over eight innings at Great American Ball Park on July 25 in a 7-2 win.
Volquez, meanwhile, had his shortest start of the season, giving up five runs in four innings.
While Volquez seems to have gotten past his early second-half struggles, it seems Cook has yet to get over his. Though his first two outings after the break went well, Cook is 1-2 with a 7.16 ERA in August, and he hasn’t pitched six innings this month after failing to get through six just twice in his first 23 starts.
His most recent start was pushed back three days because Cook was experiencing lower back tightness. He struggled through five innings in Washington on Sunday, but gave up two runs and earned a 7-2 victory.
“My back feels fine,” said Cook. “I just didn’t execute some of my pitches. Got away with some. … When (we) score some runs, it makes it easier to win.”
Volquez is 8-3 with a 2.04 ERA on the road. Cook is 6-5 with a 4.12 ERA at home.
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