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Game 5: Houston Astros at Cincinnati Reds

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Houston Astros
@ Cincinnati Reds

Wednesday, Apr 6, 2011, 7:10 PM EDT
Great American Ball Park

Nelson Figueroa vs. Edinson Volquez

Partly cloudy. Winds blowing in from center field at 10 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 65.

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If you're roughly 25 (or younger), you probably don't remember a time when the Reds started the year with four straight wins. The '05 edition that started 3-0 suffered their first loss against the Astros on April 8, 2005. Here's hoping no part of that history repeats itself, especially the part where it's 2005 again. While thatwas a pretty solid year for me, I don't want to create any parallel timeliness or paradoxes for Christopher Lloyd to explain via chalkboard. On a related note, I'm pretty sure, like two quantum-entangled particles, the Red Sox can't win until the Reds lose.

I see no reason this win streak should ever end. Edinson Volquez takes to the hill for the second time this season to ensure that it doesn't. After a hot-and-cold comeback campaign from July 17 - September 28 of 2010, Volquez had a decidedly erratic spring, hampered by a late start due to visa issues. Not counting his Game One outing against the Phillies in the 2010 NLDS, the Wagon has only thrown 68.2 regular season innings since returning to the majors after Tommy John surgery.

While pitchers like Jaime Garcia (3 years Volquez's junior) have been able to storm back from TJ and pitch well almost immediately upon returning to the bigs, its never clear what the baseline of comparison is in each case. For Volquez, we like to assume it's 2008. Perhaps more to the point, each pitcher is affected by Tommy John differently. The extent to which TJ recovery might affect Volquez's ability to replicate mechanics for his change-up and fastball - and keep a healthy contrast in velocity between the two - could hold him back more than other pitchers, but he was able to touch 93 with his fastball in 2010, while getting an impressive 24% whiff rate from his change-up and generally missing bats well.

One major difference in 2010, vs. 2008, was that Volquez was in the strike zone 10% less. This meant he walked another half-batter per game, but also that batters may have been less likely to chase what would have been an "out pitch" in 2008. And that when Volquez wasn't missing out of the zone, he was hanging some pitches where he didn't want them. With less than a half-season worth of pitching in the books and a shortened spring, I'd still put Volquez in the "comeback" file. He can take another step forward tonight.

Time to make like Hawaii and 5-0.