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Game Thread: Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds- 2008 Game 90 of 162. "Balester vs Volquez In The Sunday Matinee At Great American Ball Park."

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The Washington Nationals need to win today to avoid being swept out of Cincinnati, Ohio's Great American Ballpark, after having dropped the first three of their four-game holiday-weekend series with the Reds. As they attempt to avoid their fourth- straight loss to the Reds, and fifth straight loss overall, the Nationals turn to 22-year old rookie right-hander Collin Balester, in his second Major League start, who'll face the Reds' 24-year old right-handed ace Edinson Volquez.

On The Hill...

Balester's, (1-0, 1.80 ERA) after his first MLB start and win last Tuesday. In 5.0 innings against Florida, Balester allowed 5 hits and 1 run to the Marlins, while walking and striking out 3. MLB.com's Bill Ladson talked to DC catcher Paul Lo Duca after Balester's debut, and quoted the veteran backstop in his article entitled, "Offense backs Balester to win in debut", where Lo Duca reported:

"'He's got good stuff, it's just a matter of him harnessing it a little bit,' said Paul Lo Duca, who finished the night 2-for-4 and was behind the plate mostly to ease Balester through his first start. 'He's got an electric fastball and an electric curveball, and he's going to be a good pitcher for a long time.'"

Reds' starter Edinson Volquez is undefeated at home this season at (5-0) in 8 starts with a 2.17 ERA in 49.2 innings pitched, over which he's allowed 42 hits, 12 ER's, just 1 HR, and 25 walks, with 54 K's, a .235 BAA and a 1.35 WHIP. In his last two starts, however, Volquez has faltered slightly, going (0-1) with a 7.83 ERA in 9.2 innings, having given up 13 hits and 8 ER's in two Reds' losses.

But Volquez still leads the Reds in wins, at (10-3) over 17 starts and 18 appearances, and his 2.24 ERA so far in '08 is far and away the lowest ERA amongst the Reds' starters with Aaron Harang's 4.47 ERA second best on the team. In 34 career starts and 38 appearances on the mound over four seasons with the Rangers and Reds, Volquez has yet to face the Nationals...Though one current National has seen what he has...

Nationals' #'s Against Edinson Volquez...

DY - 1 for 2, .500 AVG, 1 RBI.

Elijah Dukes Goes Down...

On what seemed like an innocent play, Elijah Dukes tracked a long fly ball to the wall in left last night and twisted his knee awkwardly as he turned his back to the wall to catch it, obviously injuring himself seriously, but still managing to toss the ball to centerfielder Willie Harris, who threw it back in before turning to help his fallen teammate.

Washington Post sports writer Chico Harlan checked in just before midnight with the most recent updates on Dukes' condition in an post at the "Nationals Journal" with the following report:

"* The left fielder has a meniscus tear and a partial tear of the patella tendon

* He will be placed on the disabled list. (Likely replacement: Kory Casto.)

* He will be out a minimum of 4-6 weeks."

Trader Jim Says Veterans Must Go...

Washington Times writer Mark Zuckerman's article entitled, "Bowden says he's shopping", adds a new veteran name to the list of players the DC GM Jim Bowden is willing to part with before the July 31st Trade Deadline arrives, with Mr. Zuckerman writing that with the Nationals:

"Mired in last place in the National League East and conceding the rest of the season to player development, the Nationals are actively shopping veterans Paul Lo Duca, Odalis Perez, Felipe Lopez and Tim Redding. The offers haven't coming(sic) in droves, but Perez and Redding in particular could draw more interest from contenders later this month if they continue to pitch effectively."

In MLB.com writer Mike Scarr's "Trade Deadline '08" article entitled, "Burnett among names on trade block", the Nationals come up towards the end of the report, where Mr. Scarr writes that:

"Willie Harris, Jesus Flores, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns, Elijah Dukes, John Lannan and Collin Balester are considered part of the team's future."

...Mr. Scarr goes on to list, Paul Lo Duca, Felipe Lopez, Tim Redding and Jon Rauch as the potential names that could be departing DC, and as for what the Nationals are looking to receive in return, Mr. Scarr writes:

"The Nationals are looking for young Major League-ready players or Minor League prospects in return."

Which of the Nationals' players mentioned could bring high-level prospects or "Major League-ready players" in return? The Marlins have expressed interest in Lo Duca. There was a lot of Felipe Lopez trade talk last week when the Nationals were in Baltimore. But, I can't imagine either of those players bringing much in return. Odalis Perez and Tim Redding might be appealing to a team that believes they're a third or fourth starter away from success...but the only name that's been brought up that could bring an immediate return would seem to be The Tallest Pitcher in MLB History, the Nationals' gigantic closer Jon Rauch? Can the Nationals afford to let their closer go? Or is Rauch worth more now than he ever will be? There are BIG questions to be answered before the month is through...

1:15 pm EST start for game four of four in Great American Ball Park. The Nationals need to salvage a win to avoid being swept. Balster Game Two. DC's first look at the Reds' pitching sensation. There are still reasons to watch, Who's watching the Nationals?