Houston (52-100) at Cincinnati (74-79)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Cincinnati, OH
Temp: 53° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Mon Sep 19, 2011
  • TV: FSH, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A matchup with a team that’s already lost 100 games would seem the ideal opportunity for Dontrelle Willis(notes) to finally break into the win column.

Willis might not be healthy enough to take advantage.

The Cincinnati Reds left-hander is dealing with back spasms and his status is unknown for Monday night’s series opener against the visiting Houston Astros.

Willis (0-6, 5.04 ERA) hasn’t earned a win since June 5, 2010 for Arizona, despite making 12 starts this year for the Reds (74-79). The left-hander has lost both of his starts this month - both to the Chicago Cubs - including a particularly poor outing last Monday when he allowed a season highs of eight runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings of a 12-8 defeat.

“I didn’t do anything right tonight,” he said. “My location was bad. My pitch sequence was bad. It was just one of those nights.”

Willis was originally slated to pitch Sunday but developed the back spasms, pressing Matt Maloney(notes) into emergency duty. Cincinnati didn’t give Maloney much help, producing just two hits for the second straight game in an 8-1 defeat to Milwaukee.

The Reds batted .141 and scored five runs while getting swept in the three-game home series.

“It was a very frustrating weekend,” manager Dusty Baker said.

If Willis again can’t go, the Reds would likely give Travis Wood(notes) (6-5, 4.85) his first start since June 20. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two starts against the Astros this season.

Resurgent Houston starter J.A. Happ(notes) (6-15, 5.59) will try to add to Cincinnati’s frustrations with another strong outing.

After losing in his return from a brief stint in the minors, the left-hander is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his last three starts. He gave up only a solo homer in six innings of a 5-2 win over major league-leading Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“I’m just trying to get back to where I was and where I should be and pitch the way I’m capable,” Happ said. “I think (Tuesday was) a good indication of that and getting back on the right track and pitching with confidence.”

Happ is 1-1 with a 9.58 ERA in two starts this season against the Reds, while Willis did not get a decision in his lone matchup with Houston (52-100) on Aug. 3.

Willis gave up two runs over six innings before the Astros rallied for a 5-4 win.

This time, Houston will face him on the road, where it’s dropped 29 of its last 37 games.

One of the wins came Sunday, when Clint Barmes(notes) hit a two-run single in the first inning and Houston held on to beat the Cubs 3-2, aided in part by a replay review that overturned a home run by Chicago first baseman Carlos Pena.

“When you get a break, you want to be able to take advantage of it,” manager Brad MIlls(notes) told the Astros’ official website.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Happ Tor vs. T. Wood ChC
6-15 Record 6-6
5.35 ERA 4.84
134 K 76
83 BB 40
1.54 WHIP 1.49

Scoreboard

Monday, Sep 19