The Astros look to keep rolling against the Reds when the teams open a three-game set Tuesday in Houston’s final road series of the year.
The Astros (68-88) have losing records against four of their five division opponents and have totaled 32 wins against the Central - their lowest since recording 31 victories in 1999. Houston, though, has handled Cincinnati (71-85) in 2007, winning eight of 12 meetings.
Houston, which has won just two of its last eight series versus Central opponents, lost 4-3 at St. Louis on Sunday to give them a four-game split with the Cardinals. Brad Lidge blew his eighth save in 24 opportunities after giving up three runs in the bottom of the ninth.
“That was just the way we wanted it, get your closer out there to close it out,” Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper said. “Unfortunately, Brad just had a little problem locating.”
The Astros were slated to start Juan Gutierrez in this contest, but pushed him back one day to give fellow rookie Felipe Paulino (0-1, 11.25 ERA) his second career start. The right-hander faced Milwaukee last Tuesday, and allowed five runs and five hits - including a grand slam to Johnny Estrada - over four innings of a 9-1 home loss.
“He’s obviously got a good arm,” Houston catcher Brad Ausmus told the Astros’ official Web site of Paulino. “His other pitches were pitches that he can use effectively. His slider, when it’s thrown properly, is a strikeout pitch. It’s nice to see guys throwing for us like we’ve seen from some of the other teams.”
Houston, just two years removed from a World Series appearance, will finish with its first losing record since going 72-90 in 2000. Cincinnati, however, has clinched its seventh straight losing season.
The Reds have won five of their last seven games at Great American Ball Park, and return home after a 5-4 loss at San Francisco on Sunday. The Astros, meanwhile, are tied with Texas for the fewest road wins in the majors at 28, dropping seven of their last nine games away from Minute Maid Park.
Astros second baseman Craig Biggio was 1-for-4 with a single Sunday, moving him into a 20th-place tie with Rickey Henderson on the career hits list with 3,055.
Biggio, who’s retiring after the season and is on the final road trip of his 20-year career, has hit .204 (42-for-206) with three homers and 17 RBIs in 61 road games in 2007. Biggio, though, is batting .274 (135-for-493) with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 130 games in Cincinnati.
He’s hitting .316 (12-for-38) during a nine-game hitting streak against the Reds, but has never faced rookie Homer Bailey (3-2, 6.09), who will make his first career appearance against the Astros.
The right-hander was recalled from Single-A Sarasota on Thursday, and later that day, allowed a run and three hits over 5 2-3 innings of a 4-2 win against the Giants. It was Bailey’s first start since July 7.
“He looked like he was confident, and we were very happy with what we saw coming out of his hand,” Reds manager Pete Mackanin said.