The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals have split the first two games of a three-game series. On Sunday they’ll settle the score as Edinson Volquez takes the hill for the Reds against Jake Westbrook of the Cardinals.
Volquez has allowed two earned runs in two road starts this season, so if the Cardinals are going to get to him, they better do it early. Volquez has allowed 13 first-inning runs in his first four starts, the most in the majors. He has allowed just four earned runs in his other 18⅔ innings pitched. Opponents are 13-for-23 (.565) the first time facing Volquez in a game compared to 7-for-55 (.127) in all other plate appearances.
If the Cardinals don’t get to him early in the count, they’ll face a lethal pitcher with two strikes. Opponents are 4-for-40 (.100) with two strikes versus Volquez this season; his opponent batting average of .100 is fifth-lowest among NL pitchers (minimum 35 batters faced).
Keeping the ball in the yard could be an issue for Volquez. He is allowing the same percentage of fly balls (not including line drives) this season (27.6 percent) compared to last season (27.1). But this season, 37.5 percent (6-of-16) of his fly balls have been home runs. Last season, 13 percent (6-of-46) of his fly balls were home runs. The league average is 10 percent.
In case you were wondering, Albert Pujols is 3-for-7 with two home runs and four walks career versus Volquez; he is 3-for-5 (two HR) in his last seven plate appearances versus Volquez.
Here are a few more things we’re looking for on Sunday night.
Westbrook is 7-18 career in March and April. His .280 win percentage is the WORST among current major leaguers with at least 20 March/April decisions. Westbrook made his MLB debut in 2000. He’s never had a winning record in ANY season at the end of April.
Sunday will mark Albert Pujols’ 162nd career game against the Reds -- the equivalent of a full MLB season. His career numbers against them: .355 BA, 44 HR, 136 RBIs.
According to Elias, only three players who debuted in the last 80 years have gone
.350/40/130 against a team -- Ted Williams (versus Washington Senators, Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles), Joe DiMaggio (versus Browns), and Pujols (versus Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates).
Other Pujols highlights:
• Four multi-HR games, including a three-HR game on April 16, 2006, a game he won with a walk-off HR
• Two walk-off HR
• He’s never hit below .300 in any season against them
No active player has more home runs against the Reds than Lance Berkman’s 49. Pujols is second with 44. Derrek Lee’s 33 are a distant third. But Berkman’s 49 don’t even crack the top 10 for most HR against the Reds all time. Hank Aaron leads with 97.
Matchup to watch -- Gomes versus Westbrook
Jonny Gomes is 1-for-his-last-9 against Westbrook, but the one was a home run in his last at-bat against him (May 21, 2010).
Also of note on Westbrook matchups:
• The leadoff man has reached against Westbrook 11 times in 20 innings this season.
• The third inning has been Westbrook’s issue this season. Opponents are 10-for-21 with eight runs scored in the third inning against him (4-for-26, three runs scored in first two innings).
-- Mark Simon and Katie Sharp contributed to this post