Cincinnati (40-49) at Houston (47-43)

Fair Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Thu Jul 10, 2003
  • TV: FSOH, KNWS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Winless as a starter in more than a year, Ron Villone hopes to end the drought against the slumping Cincinnati Reds as the Houston Astros complete a four-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Villone hasn’t received a decision in any of his four starts this season despite allowing three earned runs or fewer each time, and the Astros have lost all four. The left-hander’s last victory as a starter came on April 20, 2002, against Philadelphia—a stretch of seven starts.

Villone, who pitched for the Reds from 1999-00, is 3-0 with a 2.90 ERA in 12 games, including four starts, against his former team.

With Wednesday’s 12-2 victory, Houston is one win away from sweeping a four-game home set from Cincinnati for the first time since July 2-5, 1971. The Astros also took over sole possession of first-place in the NL Central, one game ahead of St. Louis and the Chicago Cubs.

Houston has outscored the Reds 25-6 while winning the first three games of this series.

Adam Everett hit his first career grand slam for the Astros, and Lance Berkman, Richard Hidalgo and Gregg Zaun also homered in Wednesday’s win.

Berkman has three homers, three doubles and nine RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.

Cincinnati has lost seven in a row, its longest skid since an eight-game skid in June 2002.

Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 10th homer of the season and 478th of his career, and Juan Castro added a solo shot for the Reds.

The homer was Griffey’s second in as many games.

STANDINGS: Reds - 5th place, 6 1/2 GB, NL Central. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.

REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Paul Wilson (5-5, 4.40 ERA). Wilson is 3-1 over his last seven starts, allowing two earned runs or fewer six times. The right-hander didn’t receive a decision for the second straight start Sunday as the Reds suffered a 7-5 home loss to the New York Mets. He went seven innings, giving up two earned runs, four hits and striking out five. In two career starts against the Astros, Wilson is 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA.

ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Villone (0-0, 2.63 ERA). Villone gave up two earned runs and three hits over 5 2-3 innings of the Astros’ 3-2 defeat at Pittsburgh on Friday. He also struck out seven, giving him 23 strikeouts in 24 innings of work this season.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Sean Casey, .295 avg.; Adam Dunn, 25 HRs and 56 runs; Austin Kearns, 58 RBIs; Aaron Boone, 12 SBs. Astros - Hidalgo, .317 avg.; Morgan Ensberg, 17 HRs; Berkman, 57 RBIs and 58 runs; Everett, 6 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Astros, 5-1.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - The Reds starters rank last in the NL with a 6.09 ERA, and their overall staff is last at 5.42. … Reds pitchers have allowed at least one home run in each of the last eight games. … Cincinnati leads the majors with 85 errors. Astros - SS Everett, who set a career high with four RBIs Wednesday, hadn’t driven in a run in his previous seven games. … 3B Geoff Blum increased his career-high hitting streak to 11 games with a 1-for-5 effort Wednesday. … 2B Jeff Kent, who has been on the DL with left wrist tendinitis since June 19, took batting practice for the second straight day Wednesday. He will take batting practice again Thursday and then go to double-A Round Rock for a rehab assignment.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 19-27 on the road; Astros - 29-17 at home.

INJURIES: Reds - OF Wily Mo Pena (hamstring), 15-day DL; LHP Kent Mercker (back), 15-day DL; LHP Gabe White (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL. Astros - 2B Kent (shoulder), 15-day DL; INF Jose Vizcaino (wrist), 15-day DL; LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

P. Wilson Cin vs. R. Villone Was
8-10 Record 6-6
4.64 ERA 4.13
93 K 91
50 BB 48
1.44 WHIP 1.30