Reds 4, Astros 3

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CINCINNATI (AP)—A deflating road trip left the Houston Astros stuck in the traffic jam atop the NL Central—the last thing they wanted.

Dernell Stenson hit a solo homer that reached the seats without dispute, and Juan Castro had a three-run shot Sunday that powered the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-3 victory.

The Reds took two of three for their first series win against Houston this season. The Astros are 11-3 against the Reds overall, and 33-15 since the start of the 2001 season.

Houston moved into first place on July 8 and led by as many as four games. A 2-5 trip to Chicago and Cincinnati brought them back to the pack and briefly knocked them from the top spot.

The Astros are still in first place, but only a game separates them, the Cubs and the Cardinals in the NL’s weakest division. Chicago lost to the Dodgers on Sunday, remaining a half-game out.

“This is not what you want it to come down to—you lose, they lose,” said Jeff Bagwell, who hit a solo homer. “You want to win and take care of yourself. To succeed in the playoffs, you’ve got to be a pretty good team. The way we’ve been doing the last week, that’s not going to get it done.”

Tim Redding (8-11) matched his career high by striking out eight Reds in six innings, but Bagwell’s error and a sloppy breaking ball undercut the outing. Bagwell muffed D’Angelo Jimenez’s grounder to first for an error to open the fourth, and Stenson singled with two outs.

Redding then hung a breaking ball to Castro, whose homer barely cleared the wall in center and put the Reds up 4-2.

“I knew I hit it good, but it was to center field, so I wasn’t sure,” Castro said of his ninth homer. “It just kept carrying.”

Colin Porter stretched his glove above the wall and came up just short of a saving catch.

“I just threw a bad pitch,” said Redding, who gave up five hits. “It was supposed to be a slider down and away, but I left it over the plate and up.

“Everybody knows about the controversy of the mound being low here and the balls fly out. He hit it to the deepest part, where I thought Colin was going to catch it a couple of feet in front of the wall. I didn’t think it would be out of here.”

Stenson also had a solo homer, one day after he lost one on a disputed call. He hit a drive into the front row of left-field seats during Houston’s 5-2 victory Saturday and started rounding the bases on what he thought was a homer for his first major league hit. Second base umpire Rob Drake ruled fan interference and limited him to a double.

“It was pretty obvious, but that’s a hard ball to call when you’re looking at it like he was,” Stenson said. “I got lucky enough to hit it out of the park (on Sunday).”

His second-inning drive off Redding landed several rows deep in center, leaving no room for dispute. Stenson, promoted from the minors last week, went 5-for-8 in the last two games.

Paul Wilson (7-10) gave up five hits in six innings to win for the first time since July 27, the day before the Reds fired their manager and general manager and started trading players to cut payroll.

Chris Reitsma, who became a closer after Scott Williamson was dealt to Boston, pitched the ninth for his second save in seven chances.

Bagwell hit his 28th homer in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Bagwell has 25 career homers in Cincinnati, the most in any road city. He has three in Great American Ball Park’s inaugural season, including the 400th of his career.

Jeff Kent extended his hitting streak with an RBI single in the fourth, anddrove in another run by grounding into a forceout in the sixth.


INF Jose Vizcaino is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday with the Astros’ Triple-A club in New Orleans. He went on the DL after he was hit by a pitch on June 24, breaking his left forearm. … Porter made his third start in CF in place of Craig Biggio, who got a day off. … 3B Brandon Larson was out of the Reds’ lineup with a sore left shoulder, aggravated when he dove for a ball on Saturday. … The Reds have struck out 1,012 times, most in the majors. They’ve set club records for strikeouts in each of the last two seasons— 1,172 in 2001 and 1,188 last year.

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