The Houston Astros haven’t exactly been thriving under the pressure of a tight NL Central race.
The slumping Astros hope to pick up the pace as they resume a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park.
Houston has a half-game lead over the Chicago Cubs and a one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the Central with just over a month to play. The Astros have won just three of their last 10 games, with three of the losses coming against the out-of-contention Reds, including a 4-3 setback in Friday’s series opener.
Cincinnati has won five of its last eight despite several injuries and trades.
The Reds began the season with Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn patrolling their outfield. All three are on the disabled list, forcing Cincinnati to start little-known Dernell Stenson, Reggie Taylor and Ruben Mateo.
Since firing general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone on July 28, the Reds have traded away All-Star third baseman Aaron Boone, outfielder Jose Guillen and relievers Scott Williamson, Gabe White and Kent Mercker.
“It’s just a money thing,” Reds first baseman Sean Casey said. “This one is so frustrating because Sully has led the league and led the world four of the last five years in appearances. … It’s a sad day here for a lot of guys.”
The Reds got some more disheartening news Friday as shortstop Barry Larkin injured his ring finger on a swing during the third inning. Larkin may have ligament damage and could wind up on the disabled list, according to team doctor Timothy Kremchek.
STANDINGS: Reds - 5th place, 9 1/2 GB, NL Central. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Paul Wilson (7-10, 4.90 ERA). The right-hander is 1-3 with a 9.31 ERA in five career starts against the Astros. Wilson has pitched better than his record indicates of late, going 1-2 with a 2.73 ERA in four August starts. Wilson earned his only career win against Houston on Sunday. He pitched six innings, giving up three runs and five hits to pick up a 4-3 win.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Tim Redding (8-11, 3.66 ERA). The right-hander is 0-2 with a 3.18 ERA over his last three starts. Redding gave up four runs—one earned—and five hits over six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Casey, .292 avg. and 65 RBIs; Dunn, 27 HRs and 70 runs; Dunn and Felipe Lopez, 8 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .301 avg; Jeff Bagwell, 28 HRs and 84 runs; Lance Berkman, 76 RBIs; Bagwell and Adam Everett, 6 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Astros, 11-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - Casey leads Cincinnati with 34 multihit games, including two four-hit performances. … RHP Joe Valentine was recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Friday to fill RHP Sullivan’s roster spot. … Cincinnati is tied with Detroit with a major league-high 111 errors. Astros - OF Berkman has the most RBIs (62) against the Reds over the past four seasons. … Houston’s 12-game, 14-day homestand is its longest of the season. … 3B Morgan Ensberg has been named the Astros player representative to replace C Gregg Zaun, who was released Wednesday night.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 27-36 on the road; Astros - 38-25 at home.
INJURIES: Reds - INF Brandon Larson (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Russell Branyan (ankle), 15-day DL; OF Dunn (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Acevedo (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Ryan Dempster (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jimmy Haynes (back), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Griffey Jr. (ankle), 60-day DL; OF Kearns (shoulder), 60-day DL. Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Roy Oswalt (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 60-day DL.