(Sports Network) – The Cincinnati Reds hope to build on an already impressive start tonight when they play the middle test of a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds followed up a weekend sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers and improved to 4-0 on Tuesday with an 8-2 win in the opener of this set. The last time Cincinnati began a season with four straight wins was in 1990 – the year of the team’s last World Series appearance.
On Tuesday, Mike Leake threw six solid innings and Chris Heisey drove in three for the Reds. Leake (1-0) began his second major league season by limiting Houston to two runs on three hits and two walks. He also struck out four.
The hosts took advantage of ineffective Houston starter J.A. Happ (0-1), who lasted only four innings, giving up seven hits and seven runs. He threw only 52 of his 91 pitches for strikes while walking five and hitting a batter.
Angel Sanchez hit a two-run double for Houston, which was swept by Philadelphia in its season-opening series.
Getting the call for the Reds tonight will be Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez, who was touched for seven hits and five runs in six innings against Milwaukee, in a game Cincinnati came back to win on a Ramon Hernandez home run in the ninth inning.
Volquez is still recovering from ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow, which, after he won 17 games in 2008, has limited him to just eight wins in 23 big-league appearances since.
He was 4-3 in 12 starts last season with a 4.31 earned run average in 62 2/3 innings.
In five career starts against the Astros, Volquez is 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in 33 2/3 innings, striking out 35 batters and allowing just 24 hits.
Houston counters with journeyman righty Nelson Figueroa, who broke training came in a major-league starting rotation for the first time since initially reaching the big leagues in 2000.
He made three starts with Arizona that year and has since played for Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, the New York Mets and the Astros, making 60 starts in 137 appearances and chalking up 20 wins and a save along with 32 losses.
Figueroa split 2010 between the Phillies and Astros and was 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA down the stretch, earning a shot at full-time starting while prospect Jordan Lyles hones his craft at Triple-A.
He’s 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 13 career appearances against the Reds, including a Sept. 29 win at Cincinnati in which he allowing six hits and struck out five in six scoreless innings.
Cincinnati was 10-5 last season against the Astros.