The Astros go for a four-game sweep of the Reds as the NL Central rivals conclude their series on Thursday.
Houston (16-17) improved to 7-1 against Cincinnati this season and 5-0 at Great American Ball Park with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday. The Astros have won each game in this series by one run, and Woody Williams had the go-ahead RBI that contributed to his first victory of the season.
Lance Berkman homered for the third straight game, giving him 15 during his career at Great American Ball Park, the most by any visiting player.
“It’s a beautiful park,” said Berkman, who is batting .393 (11-for-28) with three homers and nine RBIs during a season-high nine-game hitting streak. “It’s hitter-friendly.”
The Astros first baseman has 38 total homers and 107 RBIs lifetime against the Reds—by far his best marks against any opponent—and three homers and nine RBIs in the eight games this season. Those numbers have helped cripple Cincinnati (14-20), which has dropped seven of its last eight games to fall to last place in the NL Central.
“We’ve got to start finding ways to win games,” said Reds manager Jerry Narron, whose team had three errors Wednesday. “Right now, it seems like we’re finding ways to lose games.”
Adam Dunn homered for the second time in three games, and Brandon Phillips extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games, but the Reds fell to 3-11 in their last 14 home games and are ready to conclude their seven-game homestand.
They’ll face Houston starter Matt Albers (1-1, 3.32 ERA), who is coming off his best start of the season. The right-hander held St. Louis to three hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 13-0 win on Saturday.
The 24-year-old pitcher notched his first career win in his sixth start and eighth appearance.
“He really set the tone,” Houston’s Mark Loretta said. “He was mowing them down. They were taking some swings you don’t usually see them take.”
That performance followed Albers’ worst start of the season against Cincinnati on May 1, when he allowed six runs—three earned—and eight hits over 2 1-3 innings in an 11-2 defeat. He is 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA in four career games versus the Reds.
Cincinnati will counter with Aaron Harang (4-1, 4.78), who is looking to rebound from his first loss of 2007. The right-hander gave up five runs and eight hits over five innings in a 9-7 defeat to Colorado on Saturday. He walked one and struck out eight.
Despite being 4-1, Harang has allowed five runs in four of his seven starts. One of his best outings of 2007 came against the Astros, though, when he limited them to one run and three hits over six innings while striking out eight, but didn’t factor into a 7-2 defeat on April 18.
Harang is 6-5 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 career games versus Houston, but is 4-0 with a 2.55 ERA in his last five starts. Berkman is 7-for-32 during his career versus Harang, but five of those hits have been homers.
The Reds’ rotation took a blow Wednesday when left-hander Eric Milton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed elbow, the second straight year the starter has been bothered by elbow problems. The team hasn’t decided who will replace Milton in the rotation Sunday in Los Angeles.
Cincinnati has not been swept at home by Houston in a four-game series since July 17-20, 2003.