Franchise records for home runs and extra base hits did not provide much in the form of wins for the Cincinnati Reds in the early going.
Now doing all the little things necessary to score runs and create rallies, the Reds try to wrap up their best April in franchise history with a seventh straight victory and a three-game sweep of the defending National League champion Houston Astros as their series concludes Sunday at the Great American Ballpark.
The Reds (17-7) are reaping the rewards of the come from following fundamentals during their record-setting start. Cincinnati manufactured five runs in Saturday’s 6-3 win by drawing walks, getting RBI singles and doubles and taking advantage of Astros’ errors.
The Reds erased an early two-run deficit and extended their winning streak to six games, the longest since a seven-game run from May 19-25, 2004.
“When you’re facing good pitching, you know you can’t count on hitting a lot of home runs,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “With guys like (Brandon) Phillips, you know you have a chance to do some things other than hitting the ball out of the ballpark.”
Phillips had an RBI single in a four-run fourth inning and dashed home to score the last run of the rally on a passed ball.
“If you put the ball in play, you make things happen,” Narron said. “To beat (Roy) Oswalt and (Andy) Pettitte back-to-back says a lot about our ballclub right now. I’m happy with the way we come out and grind it out every night. It’s really nice to see.”
Phillips, the reigning NL player of the week, is hitting .400 with three homers and 22 RBIs in his last 10 games.
Elizardo Ramirez (1-0, 2.57 ERA) will try to build off his last start, which resulted in his first major league win. The 23-year-old right-hander limited Washington to two runs and six hits in seven innings of a 4-2 win Monday and is making his first appearance against the Astros (15-8).
Narron does not plan on activating center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. from the 15-day disabled list later in the week as the veteran continues to recover from an inflamed tendon behind his right knee.
The Astros, who are trying to avoid their first three-game sweep at Cincinnati since Sept. 22-24, 2000, look to Taylor Buchholz (1-1, 1.80) to prevent their first three-game losing streak of the season. The rookie right-hander has pitched well since entering the rotation almost two weeks ago, limiting opponents to two runs and four hits in 14 2-3 innings.
Buchholz picked up his first major league win April 22, coming one out shy of a two-hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Opponents are just hitting .132 thus far against Buchholz, who has allowed just nine hits in 20 innings.
Astros shortstop Adam Everett went 0-for-2 with two walks after missing the last two games with a bruised hand. Everett, though, is 2-for-19 in his last seven games.
Lance Berkman went 1-for-4 with an RBI and has hit safely in seven straight games, going 10-for-28 (.357) with three homers and nine RBIs. Berkman has at least one hit in 20 of Houston’s 23 games.