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CIN@NYM: Edinson Volquez fans five over seven innings

NEW YORK -- Save for the constant roar of jets flying over Citi Field, the Reds finished the 2011 season quietly -- very quietly.

Wednesday's finale saw the Reds notch only two hits off journeyman pitcher Miguel Batista, who went the distance in the Reds' 3-0 loss to the Mets.

"I heard he's 40 years old. For him to throw nine innings on the last day of the season, my hat's off to him," said Joey Votto, who drew one of Batista's two walks. "Very impressive."

One year after winning 91 games and winning the National League Central, the Reds finished 79-83 and in a distant third place.

"It's really not the season that we wanted," manager Dusty Baker said.

One of the shortcomings this season was the step backward taken by Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez, who struggled mightily much of the year. Given the ball for the finale, Volquez took the loss, but at least he went out with a strong performance.

Volquez tied a season high with seven innings pitched, allowing three earned runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

"I think it was a pretty good game today," Volquez said. "I felt like I could pitch in the eighth, but we were trying to make a rally. [I threw] a lot of strikes today. I was able to throw all my breaking balls for strikes, too."

In a bit of a controversial moment, Volquez gave up a leadoff bunt single to Jose Reyes to start his afternoon. But Reyes, who is competing for the batting title with Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, promptly exited the game for a pinch-runner amid boos in what could have been his final game with the Mets.

But the infield hit did not burn Volquez, who retired the next 10 batters.

In the Mets' fourth, Willie Harris walked with one out, and David Wright reached on an infield hit to third. Nick Evans' RBI single to center field made it a 1-0 game.

In the bottom of the sixth, Josh Satin reached on a one-out infield single to third base. With two outs, Mike Baxter drove a 1-1 sinker into the Mets' bullpen behind right field for a two-run homer.

"Volky was good, very good," Baker said. "He just made one mistake to Baxter for his first career homer. The ball was supposed to be away, and it came back in and up a little bit. He threw the ball well enough to win."

In the ultimate getaway day of the year, the Reds didn't get away with much against Batista. In a two-hour, 15-minute game -- Cincinnati's fastest road game this season -- Batista went the distance for the first time since 2006. He began the season as a Cardinals reliever, save for an infamous six-pitch start vs. the Reds in April before a rain delay in St. Louis -- and joined the Mets' rotation in late August.

Edgar Renteria hit a one-out single in the top of the first, and Chris Heisey led off the second with a double. Batista did not allow another hit after that and retired 24 of his last 26 batters, including the final 10.

"He had us kind of off-balance," Baker said. "We hit a lot of ground balls and had a lot of swings off him, good swings."

Volquez, who won 17 games in 2008 before Tommy John surgery essentially marred his next two seasons, finished 2011 with a 5-7 record and 5.71 ERA. There were two demotions to Triple-A Louisville -- not expected for an ace -- including an extended one in July that lasted nearly two months. He returned to the Reds as a September callup.

Wednesday was definitely the best of the four starts he made since his return.

"He's gotten back to throwing strikes, that's No. 1," Baker said. "That was his only problem earlier -- bases on balls. There was a time he was leading the league in bases on balls and high pitch counts. ... His future is still very bright and very much in front of him."

The Reds have quite a crowd in the mix for rotation spots heading into the offseason. Baker envisions the 27-year-old Volquez being part of that group rather than a member of the relief corps.

"Right now I think he's a starting guy," Baker said. "That's what he's been the whole time. We just have to determine who's our best to put out there. That's what the wintertime is for."

In a gamble that backfired, Volquez turned down a multiyear contract last winter for a one-year, $1.625 million contract to avoid arbitration. He will be eligible for arbitration again, assuming the Reds bring him back.

"I want to stay here," he said. "This is my team right now. I want to stay here the rest of my career. We'll see what they've got."

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