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Cardinals-Reds Preview

May 10, 2009 - 5:06 AM By ANTHONY GIORNALISTA STATS Senior Writer

St. Louis (19-11) at Cincinnati (16-13), 1:10 p.m. EDT

Adam Wainwright is not throwing the ball as well as in past years for the St. Louis Cardinals. Edinson Volquez, meanwhile, is back in a groove and the Cincinnati Reds are certainly taking advantage.

The Reds, above .500 for the first time since 2006 and gaining on the Cardinals in the NL Central, send the red-hot Volquez to the mound to match up with Wainwright as they try to sweep a three-game series.

Cincinnati (17-13) has won three straight and seven of 10, including an 8-3 win over St. Louis (19-12) on Saturday to move within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Cardinals.

After getting a strong effort from starting pitcher Aaron Harang in the middle game of this series, the Reds hope Volquez (4-2, 3.47) can follow up with a third straight dominant performance.

Volquez has rebounded nicely from a poor start with outstanding efforts in his last two outings, allowing no runs and winning each contest. He has not surrendered a run in his last 16 1-3 innings.

"He's not overthrowing as much," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "His velocity is down a couple of miles an hour, but his location is better, and he still has good velocity. When you're throwing strikes, you're going to get some swings on some bad pitches."

The right-hander gave up three hits and walked four while striking out seven in eight innings to lead Cincinnati to a 7-0 victory over Florida on Tuesday night.

Volquez is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two career starts versus the Cardinals.

Volquez is having the type of stretch that St. Louis is still waiting for from Wainwright (3-1, 4.08). He is coming off his worst start of the season, surrendering seven runs and nine hits in six innings as St. Louis lost 10-7 to Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Though he went 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his previous five starts, Wainwright has yet to measure up to the standards of the pitcher who got the final out of the 2006 World Series. He appeared poised for a breakthrough season after going 11-3 last year despite missing nearly three months due to a finger injury, but he has not been throwing the ball as well this season.

"I haven't pitched bad, let's say that to begin with," Wainwright said. "I've made pitches all year long with guys on base when I needed to, and that's part of pitching. But if you're going to get better you've got to be honest, and I can pitch a lot better."

Wainwright is 1-2 with a 4.63 ERA in three starts and five relief appearances versus the Reds.

He'll be facing a Reds team that has managed to produce despite playing with a makeshift lineup over its last three games, scoring a combined 20 runs during that stretch.

Cincinnati shortstop Alex Gonzalez has pulled muscles in his side, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion has a broken wrist, and second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto have been out with the flu.

While Phillips was back Saturday, Votto - the Reds' leading hitter at .378 - was still sick. Votto's status for Sunday is uncertain.