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09/08/07 12:17 AM ET
Volquez shuts down A's in opener
Catalanotto finishes three-RBI night a double short of cycle
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Edinson Volquez has made two starts since coming back from the Minor Leagues. In one, he beat the first-place team in his division. On Friday night, he took on the American League ERA leader and won again, even though a thumb blister limited him to six innings. So far, pretty good. Volquez was just that on Friday when he pitched six scoreless innings and the Rangers won for the 10th time in their last 12 games by holding on for a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics at the Ballpark in Arlington. Volquez, who allowed two hits, three walks and struck out five, is now 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his first two starts since being recalled from the Minors. "The kid is showing he can pitch at the Major League level," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He hasn't had any easy foes, and he stood up tall each time." Volquez outpitched Dan Haren, the All-Star right-hander who had the lowest ERA in the AL before giving up five runs on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. The Rangers are now just two games behind the Athletics in the American League West. "That would be great if we could catch them," outfielder Frank Catalanotto said. "That would give this team a lift going into next year." Catalanotto gave the Rangers a lift on Friday with three hits, including a leadoff home run in the first inning, a run-scoring triple in the Rangers' three-run fourth and an RBI single in the fifth. Catalanotto is now hitting .408 since Aug. 1 to lift his batting average from .228 to .277. "He has been the catalyst," Washington said. "That's nothing knew to anyone who knows him. You're seeing something he has been doing all his career." Catalanotto had a shot at being the fourth player in Rangers history to hit for the cycle, but Washington didn't give him the chance. The Athletics had cut the Rangers lead to 5-2 when Catalanotto came up to the plate to lead off the eighth inning and face left-handed reliever Dallas Braden. Catalanotto, a left-handed hitter, has just 10 at-bats against left-handers this year and Washington didn't let him get an 11th. He sent up Sammy Sosa to hit against Braden, a move Washington usually makes in tight games. "I was concerned only about winning the ballgame and getting some more runs," Washington said. Oakland manager Bob Geren countered with right-hander Andrew Brown and Sosa grounded out to shortstop. "After I hit my single, I knew I was a double away," Catalanotto said. "I knew I would get another at-bat. At least, I thought I would get another at-bat, but I didn't get that opportunity. I was a little disappointed, but I'm sure down the road there will be another opportunity." Volquez is the one who is making the most of his opportunity. He struggled a little bit early with his fastball command, but was able to compensate with his changeup and his curveball. That's something that he had trouble doing in the past, but it appears he has made significant progress toward becoming a more complete pitcher. "We've seen him before in the past, but it looks like he went down to the Minor Leagues and sharpened up his game," Geren said. "His thing used to be command, and today he was throwing 95 [mph], had a good changeup for the lefties and spotted his fastball pretty well. If he pitches like that, they've found themselves a nice starter." Volquez had a little bit of trouble in the first inning when he walked Mark Ellis and Jack Cust with one out. But after a visit from pitching coach Mark Connor, Volquez struck out Mike Piazza and got Dan Johnson on a grounder to end the threat. Volquez also allowed a couple of two-out singles to Ellis and Cust in the third, but retired Piazza on a fly to center to end the threat. Those were the only at-bats the Athletics had against Volquez with runners in scoring position. "I'm pitching a lot better," Volquez said. "Last year, everything was too fast, and I was getting runners on base every inning. Now, I know what I'm doing, and I'm making good pitches." Volquez threw just 87 pitches and finished by retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced. He could have gone farther, but he developed a blister on his thumb and the Rangers didn't want to mess with it. They had seen enough good things. "He had a great tempo," Washington said. "Early in the game, he went with his offspeed pitches and got outs. Then, late in the game, he went back to his fastball. [Catcher] Gerald Laird did a good job mixing it up."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.