Reds 4, Astros 3

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HOUSTON (AP)—The Cincinnati Reds couldn’t enjoy their win after learning Barry Larkin’s injury might be worse than expected.

Juan Castro hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning as Cincinnati beat the Houston Astros 4-3 Friday night and snapped Wade Miller’s six-game winning streak against the Reds.

Larkin injured his left ring finger on a swing in the third inning and might have ligament damage. Larkin will return to Cincinnati for a consultation with team physician Dr. Timothy Kremchek.

“This looks like something that will land Barry on the disabled list,” Reds trainer Mark Mann said. “X-rays were inconclusive.”

Larkin said he thought at first he had dislocated his knuckle on his final swing.

“It’s disheartening and it’s frustrating but it’s a part of the game,” he said. “There is a lot of swelling in there. I’ve got to get an MRI in Cincinnati and have some specialist see it.”

Mann also said reliever Mark Watson was hospitalized with swelling in both knees and ankles and would be kept overnight for observation.

The Reds beat the Astros for the third time in their last four games, but Houston maintained a one-game lead in the NL Central over St. Louis, which lost to Philadelphia 9-4.

Trailing 2-1, Sean Casey singled and Ruben Mateo doubled to start the seventh inning. Dernell Stenson’s groundout tied it and Castro followed with a fly to right fielder Richard Hidalgo. Jeff Bagwell’s relay to homeplate was late and Mateo slid in with the go-ahead run.

Ryan Freel hit a solo homer off Billy Wagner in the ninth.

“That’s the way they’ve been doing it,” interim manager Dave Wiley said. “We’re not going to get many three run home runs. After things like these guys have gone through, all that’s transpired, they keep going out and battling.

“We are playing some very good teams. It’s nice to see.”

Miller (10-11) entered the game 6-0 in 11 career starts against Cincinnati. He went seven innings and allowed five hits, three runs while striking out seven and not walking a batter.

Miller gave up a run in the first before settling down and retiring 17 of 18 batters before the Reds’ seventh-inning rally.

In the first, Larkin and D’Angelo Jimenez hit consecutive one-out singles and Sean Casey hit a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.

“This is very disappointing,” Miller said. “This was a big game for me, we are trying to win the series. This is the best I’ve felt all year mechanically—just a couple of batters in a row, that’s what hurt me.”

Cincinnati starter Seth Etherton led off the sixth with a single to right for the first hit of his major league career.

It was a major step for Etherton, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder March 20, 2001. It was his first victory since July 20, 2000, when he pitched for the Anaheim Angels.

Etherton (1-1) lost to the Astros on Saturday in his first major league start since Aug. 4, 2000, when he pitched for Anaheim. This time, he went six innings, allowed five hits two earned runs and he struck out four and walked two.

“This is my first win in three years, that’s pretty significant and it’s my first win in the NL,” Etherton said. “It’s been a long road back.

“I’ve always tried to stay optimistic. I knew I was going to get a new shoulder but I really didn’t know what that meant. Now, three years later, I’ve won a major league game.”

Chris Reitsma allowed Jeff Kent’s RBI single in the ninth before finishing for his fourth save.

The Astros loaded the bases with one out in the eighth off Ryan Wagner but pinch-hitter Orlando Merced struck out and Adam Everett hit into a force to end the inning.

Craig Biggio, who had four hits, led off the third with a double to left field and scored on Lance Berkman’s double to right for the Astros’ first run.

The Reds put runners at the corners against Octavio Dotel with two outs inthe eighth but Casey hit into a force play to end the inning.

Notes

Casey leads the Reds with 34 multihit games, including two four-hit performances. … Houston’s 12-game, 14-day homestand is their longest of the season. … Morgan Ensberg has been named the Astros player representative to replace catcher Gregg Zaun, released Wednesday night. Adam Everett becomes the alternate. … Berkman (62) has the most RBIs against the Reds over the pastfour seasons. Bagwell and Sammy Sosa each have 48 RBIs in that span.

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