Astros-Reds Preview


The Cincinnati Reds had their best regular-season home record in 18 years in 2010. The defending NL Central champions are well on their way toward another successful season in front of their home fans.

Cincinnati looks to open 5-0 at home for the first time in 31 years Wednesday night when it continues a three-game series with the winless Houston Astros.

Last season, the Reds went 49-32 at home -- their best mark since going 53-28 in 1992 -- and advanced to the postseason for the first time in 15 years.

Manager Dusty Baker's team is again on top of the division, staying perfect on its season-opening six-game homestand Tuesday with an 8-2 victory over the Astros (0-4). Cincinnati is the NL's lone undefeated team.

"Remember I said that whatever we sold last year was going to be an easier sell this year because of the results," Baker said following the Reds' first 4-0 start since opening 8-0 in its 1990 World Championship season.

The Reds, who led the NL in batting, homers and RBIs last season, have already hit eight homers and are batting .338 while averaging 7.8 runs per game.

Cincinnati has a chance to open 5-0 at home for the first time since an 8-0 start in 1980.

"I think we have 25 guys who can all do the job," outfielder Chris Heisey said after driving in three runs Tuesday. "That's what it takes -- we're going to keep it rolling."

That kind of production could help Edinson Volquez (0-0, 7.50 ERA), who gets the ball for the first time since a rough start on opening day. The right-hander had a wild pitch, surrendered five runs and a career-high three homers -- including back-to-back shots to open the game -- over six innings in Thursday's 7-6 victory over Milwaukee.

A walkoff, three-run homer by catcher Ramon Hernandez prevented Volquez from picking up the loss.

Volquez, though, should enter this matchup with plenty of confidence. He is 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in five starts against Houston.

He will face an Astros team that is off to another woeful start. Houston, which opened 1-6 in 2009 and 0-8 last season, is batting .215 and averaging 3.3 runs so far.

The Astros' starters have a combined 9.47 ERA while giving up 25 hits and 10 walks in 19 innings.

"We've got three starters go four innings in a row," manager Brad Mills said Tuesday after J.A. Happ was chased after walking five and surrendering seven hits. "That definitely puts a little more stress on the hitting. The pitchers who are throwing against them can take a little more liberties."

Nelson Figueroa will try to give the Astros' bullpen a much-needed break as he begins his first full season with the club. He was 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA with Philadelphia and Houston in 2010.

The right-hander, 2-2 with a 7.43 ERA in a team-high 23 innings this spring, was 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts against Cincinnati last season after the Astros picked him up off waivers in late July.

The Reds have won 12 of 14 at home in this matchup after losing 17 of 18 to the visiting Astros.