Reds 9, Astros 7, 10 innings
CINCINNATI (AP)—The Houston Astros have finally started hitting—just in time to watch first place slip away.
Houston has lost four in a row, matching its worst slump of the season, and fallen out of the top spot in the NL Central for the first time since July 7. The Astros hadn’t lost four straight since June 23-27.
Now, they’re a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs, tied with St. Louis for second place.
“Everybody goes through this situation, and we’re in it right now,” said reliever Octavio Dotel, who allowed the Reds to rally for five runs in the seventh. “I hope it changes.”
Houston’s slumping offense finally came around, but a usually dependable bullpen melted down, giving up more runs in one night than it had in the last eight games.
“We’re having a few rough days,” said starter Ron Villone, who hit his first career homer and turned a 3-2 lead over to the bullpen. “We’ve got to get over them. We’ll be all right.”
A day after they ended a 16-game losing streak against Arizona, the Reds broke a 10-game skid against the Astros by getting yet another game-ending hit.
“That’s a pitch they’ve been getting me out on for the last couple of years,” said Dunn, who has produced 43 of his 57 RBIs off homers. “I’m either a little too early or a little too late, and I pop it up.”
Not if the game’s in extra innings, the only time when the Reds are consistently at their best.
It was the Reds’ 13th game-ending hit of the season and their 27th win in their last at-bat, most in the majors. Fourteen of their 54 wins have come in extra innings.
Ryan Wagner (2-0) pitched the 10th to get his second career victory.
Cincinnati had lost eight of its last 10 games, getting shut out three times during that span as its offense ground to a halt. The Reds had scored only four runs in their last four games.
They finally got rolling against the Astros’ bullpen, which allowed six of the nine runs.
It stayed tied until the seventh, when Villone led off with his first career homer. The left-hander swung from his heels on a 1-1 pitch, sending the ball well back into the seats in right field for a 3-2 lead.
“I’m up there just swinging,” said Villone, who homered in his 152nd career at-bat. “I got lucky and ran into it. I’d trade it for a win, though.”
The milestone homer put Villone in line to improve to 6-0 career against his former team, but Dotel couldn’t hold the lead. The reliever loaded the bases with a walk in the bottom of the seventh, then gave up a two-run double to Ray Olmedo and a two-run single by LaRue. Jimenez’s RBI single made it 7-3.
The Reds bullpen then had a meltdown of its own, depriving Graves of his first victory since July 1. John Riedling gave up a sacrifice fly to Geoff Blum for the second out in the eighth, and Craig Biggio followed with his third hitof the game, a three-run homer that tied it at 7.
Packs of 2003 Reds baseball cards were handed out as part of a promotion. The packs included manager Bob Boone, who was fired on July 28, two of his fired coaches and five players who were later traded. … Villone’s homer was the first by an Astros pitcher since Shane Reynolds on May 31, 2001. … Kent’s homer extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … Reds SS Barry Larkin will sit out the three-game series. He hasn’t played since Tuesday, when he aggravated scar tissue from a hernia operation in 2001. … Olmedo’sthrowing error at SS was the Reds’ 111th in 121 games, the most in the majors.