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In Progress: Nationals Trying To Salvage A Split In Cincinnati

(Sports Network) - The Nationals' rotation has gotten a jolt ever since Stephen Strasburg joined the club in June. The Reds are hoping for a similar result from Edinson Volquez.

Volquez will make his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery this afternoon when Cincinnati tries to deny Washington a split of their four- game series at Great American Ball Park.

The right-handed Volquez took the field on Saturday for the first time since June 1 of last year and got the win after holding the Rockies to just a run and three hits over six innings, walking two while striking out nine.

The Reds will hope for more of that today from Volquez, who also served a 50- game suspension during his recovery for violating the league's drug policy and went 4-2 with a 4.35 earned run average in nine starts a season ago after winning 17 games in 2008.

"It was not easy, but I was comfortable [Saturday] after the first inning," Volquez told the Reds' website. "I was really, really excited, big crowd tonight, first time. It seemed like this was my first time in the big leagues."

The 27-year-old has faced the Nationals just once before, picking up a victory on July 6, 2008 after getting charged with three runs over six frames of work.

Volquez will be looking to pitch the Reds to a series win tonight after they took the first two games of this set prior to losing 8-5 last night to Strasburg and the Nationals. Washington's phenom yielded three runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven to win his third straight start.

"We've been putting up runs these last few games and it's great," Strasburg said. "It makes the pitcher's job a lot easier. Hopefully we can keep it going."

Cristian Guzman notched a two-run homer, Willie Harris added a solo shot and both Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond produced two-run singles for the Nationals, who snapped a four-game skid and won for the second time in eight games.

Miguel Cairo had a two-run single for the Reds, but Bronson Arroyo was charged with seven runs over 5 2/3 innings. Cincinnati's second loss in six games dropped the club 1 1/2 contests behind first-place St. Louis in the National League Central.

"It was a tough loss tonight because we swung the bats well against a very tough pitcher," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He has good stuff and he's going to be good for a long time."

Nationals starter Livan Hernandez is in search of his first win since June 21, going 0-2 in five starts since. His two losses have come in back-to-back starts and he has allowed four or more runs three times over his winless drought.

That wasn't the case on Saturday versus the Marlins as Hernandez only allowed two runs, one earned, over six innings of a 2-0 loss. The 35-year-old right- hander fell to 6-6 with a 3.27 ERA on the season and 2-4 with a 4.32 ERA in eight road outings.

Hernandez did not factor into the decision of a June 4 start versus the Reds even though he allowed just two runs over six innings. He did have to work around eight hits and four walks, though, and is just 2-7 with a 5.46 ERA lifetime against Cincinnati in 14 starts.

The Cuban hurler isn't expected to face Reds' triple crown threat Joey Votto, who is hitting .305 with 23 homers and 64 RBI in 90 games this year. He is expected to get the day off in favor of catcher Ramon Hernandez, who will come off the disabled list today and play first. Hernandez has been out since July 4 because of a sore knee.

The Reds took two of three in Washington from June 4-6, but it was the Nationals who won three of four at Cincinnati last season.