April 29, 2008

Sarasota's Valaika Still Sizzling

April 29, 2008

Sarasota's Chris Valaika admits he tries to hit the ball hard each time he comes to the plate. Thus far this season, he's succeeding at an impressive rate.

The 22-year-old shortstop enjoyed his first career five-hit game Monday, belting a homer and driving in two runs as the visiting Reds cruised to a 9-2 victory over the Dunedin Blue Jays at Knology Park.

Valaika, who was serving as the Reds' designated hitter, began his big night with a two-run homer, his fifth, in the first inning. He singled in the third, fifth, seventh and ninth to pace a 12-hit attack, and also scored three times for Sarasota.

"I'm feeling good," said Valaika, who is batting .389 and leads the Florida State League with 27 RBIs. "A lot of guys on the team are doing well. It's a fun environment to be around. I did it (5-for-5) in college, but never in the pros."

Valaika, who was selected by Cincinnati out of UC-Santa Barbara in the third round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has at least one hit in 22 of the Reds' 25 games this season. He hit a combined .284 with 12 homers and 79 RBIs at Class A Dayton and Sarasota last year.

"I try to be a situational hitter when that's needed," Valaika added. "When it doesn't call for that, I try to stay up the middle and hit the ball hard every at-bat."

Valaika wasn't alone in driving the Reds (14-11) past the Blue Jays (14-11). Justin Turner, who is hitting .384, singled in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Drew Stubbs went 3-for-5 with his first homer of the year and three RBIs, boosting his batting average to .348.

Travis Wood (2-2) allowed two runs on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts over six innings to notch the win.

Former Major Leaguer Gustavo Chacin (0-3) took the loss after surrendering six runs on seven hits and two walks with two strikeouts over 4 1/3 frames.

Alan Friedman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.