Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron’s lineup changes proved effective for the Reds.
They’ll try for another offensive outburst when they open a two-game series against the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday.
With the emergence of rookie Josh Hamilton, Narron moved leadoff hitter Ryan Freel to third base for the first time since July 8 and batted Hamilton second in the order as the starting center fielder in Cincinnati’s 11-5 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Freel, who agreed to a two-year, $7 million contract extension on Monday, finished with four hits and three runs scored, while Hamilton went 2-for-4 with two runs.
“I absolutely love what he did with the lineup, putting Hamilton second,” Freel said. “This guy is going to be what we need in the lineup.”
After scoring just seven runs in their previous three games, the Reds (8-6) amassed a season-high 15 hits and scored a season high in runs. Hamilton is batting .350 (7-for-20) with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last six games.
Opening day starter Aaron Harang (2-0, 5.40 ERA) takes the mound for Cincinnati on Wednesday looking to win his fifth straight start over the Astros (6-6).
Harang won all four of his outings against Houston last season, posting a 2.76 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 29 1-3 innings.
The right-hander, however, is looking to bounce back from two subpar starts. After allowing one unearned run in seven innings in Cincinnati’s season-opening win over the Chicago Cubs, Harang has allowed five runs in each of his last two starts.
Battling the flu, he gave up five runs and nine hits in four innings against the Cubs on Friday, but was bailed out by his offense and solid relief pitching as the Reds won 6-5.
Houston defeated Florida 6-1 on Tuesday behind another big game from Carlos Lee.
The Astros right fielder went 3-for-5 with a home run, a double and four RBIs, and is batting .407 (11-for-27) with four homers and 11 RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.
“This is a crazy game,” Lee said. “I play hard … I don’t know at the end of the day what it’s going to be, but I enjoy the game.”
Lee struggled at Great American Ball Park while playing for Milwaukee last season, batting just .194 (7-for-36) with two homers and seven RBIs.
The Astros send Chris Sampson (1-0, 0.00) to the mound for Wednesday’s series opener.
Sampson is coming off a sharp outing against the Cubs, allowing three hits in five shutout innings of a 4-2 win on April 10, but left early after his calf muscle tightened up while running the bases.
The start was the first of the season for Sampson, who also pitched three scoreless innings of relief against Pittsburgh on April 4.
The right-hander made two appearances out of the bullpen against Cincinnati last season as a rookie, giving up three runs in 8 1-3 innings.
Cincinnati won 10 of 15 meetings with the Astros in 2006, including four of six at Great American Ball Park.