Reds 8, Rockies 1
Edinson Volquez's throwback performance has the Cincinnati Reds thinking they're in it for the long haul.
Volquez allowed only three hits over six innings in his first game back from reconstructive elbow surgery Saturday night, an eye-opening outing that set up an 8-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
With Volquez back, the NL Central leaders might not have to trade for another starter in order to keep up with St. Louis, which remained a half-game back.
''Edinson - he just dominated, man,'' said Brandon Phillips, who hit one of Cincinnati's four homers. ''We can stay within the organization and get it done. We can just be dominant. The only thing that can beat us is ourselves.''
Volquez (1-0) made it back ahead of schedule from elbow surgery last Aug. 3. The Reds' former ace pitched like one, striking out nine while hitting 95 mph with his fastball.
Nice addition to the rotation.
''It's like a major trade,'' manager Dusty Baker said. ''That was an outstanding performance. It picked the whole team up. The guys were elated to have him back.''
As a welcome back, starter Johnny Cueto sprayed a wad of shaving cream onto a blue towel and smashed it into Volquez's face while he did a postgame television interview on the field.
''It wasn't easy, but I felt comfortable after the first inning,'' Volquez said. ''That first inning, I was really excited - big crowd. It felt like my first time in the big leagues. I let my emotions get to me in the first.''
Still, he dominated a matchup of starters returning from injury.
Drew Stubbs homered in his first two at-bats against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (3-2), who was hit hard in his second outing since he recovered from a torn tendon in his left middle finger. Phillips added a three-run shot, and Jonny Gomes homered off Jhoulys Chacin.
Cincinnati finished with only five hits - four of them homers.
''I think I'm OK,'' said De La Rosa, who walked five in 3 1-3 innings and regularly fell behind in the count. ''I'm going to be OK. It's my second start. I can pitch better than that. I will be better than that.''
The Reds drew a capacity crowd of 41,300 for the team's annual Hall of Fame inductions. Third baseman Chris Sabo, reliever Pedro Borbon and 19th century pitcher Tony Mullane were added.
Volquez got one of the loudest pregame introductions. His return could be a huge boost for the Reds in their two-team race with the Cardinals.
The Rockies knew what was coming. They had video of Volquez's pre-surgery appearances playing in the clubhouse before the game, a reminder that he was the Reds' top starter before he got hurt - a 17-game winner and All-Star in 2008.
Didn't help much.
The first inning was a bit ragged, just as Volquez expected for his first time back. Carlos Gonzalez had an RBI single during the 22-pitch inning.
After that, Volquez settled down, mixing his sharp fastball with a swing-freezing changeup. He chomped away on a wad of gum while stifling one of the NL's top lineups - two walks, three singles.
De La Rosa has a ways to go. The left-hander came out of a game April 25 with the injured finger, and lasted only 4 1-3 innings against San Diego in his return July 9. The Rockies are hoping he's back in form soon, providing a complement to 15-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez as they try to overtake San Diego in the NL West.
Stubbs hit a two-run shot and a solo homer for a 4-1 lead. Phillips' drive ended De La Rosa's outing and made it 7-1.
''I didn't see much curveball, I didn't see much slider,'' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ''I saw a fastball-changeup pitcher that was not throwing strikes. He was not throwing strikes, period.''
NOTES: A young man ran on the field during the seventh inning, put up no resistance to police and was quickly handcuffed and led away. ... Colorado's Todd Helton, on the 15-day disabled list with a stiff lower back, is taking batting practice and expects to learn early next week whether he'll go on a rehab assignment. ... Reds 3B Scott Rolen missed the game because he was sick. Rolen missed two games before the All-Star break because of a sore back. ... The Reds optioned LHP Matt Maloney to Triple-A Louisville. ... It was Stubbs' second career multihomer game. He hit three on July 4 at Wrigley Field.