Edinson Volquez has been one of baseball's best starting pitchers in his rookie season, helping to stabilize a Cincinnati Reds rotation that's been one of the NL's worst.
Cliff Lee is the only starter who's been better.
The major league's ERA leaders square off at Great American Ball Park on Sunday afternoon, as Volquez looks to help the Reds win their sixth straight and complete a three-game interleague sweep of Lee's Cleveland Indians.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Cleveland -119 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 7.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -119 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
The Reds acquired Volquez (6-1, 1.12 ERA) from Texas in the offseason for outfielder Josh Hamilton, who's leading the major leagues with 49 RBIs.
Volquez had just three career wins coming into 2008, but he's made sure Cincinnati has no regrets in dealing Hamilton. The Reds (20-23) have a 4.60 staff ERA, one of the 10 highest in the major leagues, but that figure would catapult to a baseball-worst 5.12 if it weren't for Volquez.
He went six innings on Tuesday against Florida, yielding a run on seven hits in Cincinnati's 5-3 win.
"It's amazing," center fielder Jerry Hairston told the team's official Web site. "It's really good to see, especially on my end. He was a teammate of mine for a couple of years in Texas. You always knew he had electric stuff. Now he's starting to put it together."
Volquez has allowed one earned run or none in all eight of his starts.
But as impressive as Volquez has been, Lee (6-0, 0.67) has been even better. After being sent to the minor leagues in 2007 and spending the offseason as the subject of trade rumors, Lee has spent the beginning of this season looking like a future Hall of Famer.
He's allowed zero earned runs in five of his seven starts and has an 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Lee's most recent outing was the only one in which he didn't earn a victory. But his line as impressive as ever - he pitched nine shutout innings on Monday before the Indians' bullpen imploded in the 10th in a 3-0 loss.
"It's out of my control," Lee said after his first no-decision. "I did what I was supposed to do. I put up zeroes."
Cleveland's bullpen had the sixth-best ERA in baseball (3.73) last season, but it's been a weakness so far in 2008.
The Indians (22-21) came into Saturday's game against the Reds with a 4.23 ERA from their relievers - 11th in the AL - but it went up after Masa Kobayashi gave up a three-run, ninth-inning homer to Adam Dunn, which lifted Cincinnati to a 4-2 win.
Kobayashi is part of manager Eric Wedge's new closer-by-committee approach to the late innings, which he opted to go to after Rafael Betancourt was ineffective in replacing the injured Joe Borowski.
The Indians' starting pitching, with a major-league best 2.88 ERA, has kept them competitive, but their offense has kept them from looking like the team that cruised to the AL Central title last season.
Cleveland has scored only 18 runs in its last seven games, and is averaging only 4.1 runs this season after scoring more than 5.0 per game in 2007.
The Reds are averaging 4.4 runs, but they could use more production from Ken Griffey Jr., who's hitting only .245 and hasn't homered in 19 straight games.
Griffey, however, might find a matchup with Lee enticing. He's 4-for-11 (.364) with three homers lifetime against the Indians' left-hander. Bet this game.
Here are some top trends for today's game:
- CINCINNATI is 20-39 (-22.1 Units) against the money line when playing on Saturday over the last 3 seasons.
- CINCINNATI is 53-76 (-25.5 Units) against the money line in day games over the last 3 seasons.
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