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HOU@CIN: Reds score five runs in the third

CINCINNATI -- Buy a ticket to a Reds game with Edinson Volquez starting, and you seem sure to get the range of emotions. You might laugh or cry, cheer or jeer -- all alternating within a span of minutes.

Hey, it's better than "Cats." You'll want to see it again and again.

Volquez survived another rocky beginning on Wednesday, but the Reds stormed back in a 12-4 come-from-behind victory over the Astros to keep their record unblemished at 5-0. Houston, now tagged with a 0-5 record, took a 4-0 first-inning lead on Volquez before the Reds responded with 12 unanswered runs.

"Everybody knows what this ballclub can do," Volquez said. "We've been scoring a lot of runs in the first five games. We did it again tonight."

Although the winning pitcher, Volquez had a line only a mother could love. He allowed four earned runs and five hits with five walks, eight strikeouts and a balk. In the 23-minute top of the first alone, he threw 44 pitches and faced 10 batters -- with three walks (one with the bases loaded). Chris Johnson added a two-run single and J.R. Towles hit a RBI single for the four-run Astros lead.

Volquez (1-0) was reaching 96-97 mph in the early going, and his first six outs came via the strikeout. Reds manager Dusty Baker instructed his pitcher to stop worrying about strikeouts and to put the ball in play for the defense.

"They didn't really get to him. He sort of got to himself," Baker said. "He trusts his stuff. He just trusts all of it, sometimes at the wrong time. He was over-pitching. He was showing every pitch he had to every batter in the very first inning and never really established a location and his fastball."

Even things weren't going well for Volquez as a hitter. In the second inning, he botched a sacrifice bunt and hit into a rather unique 2-5-4 inning-ending double play.

On Opening Day Thursday vs. the Brewers, Volquez threw 30 pitches in the first inning and allowed five runs overall. It took Ramon Hernandez's three-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Reds a win, as Volquez got a no-decision.

Like in that game, Volquez righted himself and put it together for a much nicer ending. But not before opening the top of the second inning vs. Houston with a four-pitch walk. Baker still had no intention of going to get him. And after that walk, Volquez retired seven in a row.

"We were trying to stick with him as long as we can," Baker said. "This is our first stretch of consecutive days without an off-day, nine days in a row. If you get upside down on day No. 2, then you're treading on dangerous ground with guys being able to pitch this early in the year. That's not what you want."

When Volquez missed two spring starts because of visa issues, the club downplayed its significance. Had he had a full spring, he would have gotten six starts instead of four. Those other two games came in the regular season and Volquez now has a 7.36 ERA with seven walks and 13 strikeouts in only 11 innings.

"I just have to be more careful in the first inning," said Volquez, who finished the fifth with 99 pitches to qualify for the victory. "After that, everything worked. I threw more strikes. I kept the ball down and the breaking pitch was there."

And the Reds' lineup was there, too. Against Astros starter Nelson Figueroa (0-1), Paul Janish notched the first of his three hits with a one-out RBI single to left field in the second inning. A five-run bottom of the third inning followed as Scott Rolen drove in two runs with double to the wall in left-center field.

The Astros made five errors in the game and two of those mishaps sent the third inning out of control. Chris Heisey reached on a Figueroa throwing error. As Jay Bruce and Heisey attempted a double steal, Towles hit his hand on Hernandez's bat while throwing to third and it sent the ball into the dugout for the error and Bruce's go-ahead run. Janish's RBI single to center field scored Heisey for a two-run lead.

The Reds added four more runs in the bottom of the sixth.

"It's tough against a team like that," said Figueroa, who allowed 10 runs (six earned) over 5 1/3 innings. "Once they get the momentum going, it's hard to stop. They were stringing hits together and making the most of the mistakes we made. They seem to take advantage of every mistake you make. It's a testament to the way they played last year and so far this year".

Only three previous Reds clubs have been 5-0 -- 1919, 1980 and 1990. With 43 runs scored, it's one shy of the 1976 club record of 44 runs through five games.

There appears to be no chinks in the Reds' armor, yet. The bullpen had another shutdown game with four scoreless innings. The defense has not made an error since Opening Day.

If the Reds can get Volquez to smooth the early rough edges, it could get really interesting.

"Edinson, maybe he just needs to go out there and calm down a little bit," second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I know there's a lot of pressure on him being the No. 1 starter and everybody is expecting big things from him. But he's a great pitcher and we have his back. Hopefully, he'll learn from the mistakes he made today, take advantage of it and go out there and pitch a good game."

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