Reds 7, Astros 5
HOUSTON (AP)—The slumping Cincinnati Reds needed a big hit. They got it from an unlikely source.
Backup catcher Javier Valentin hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Reds snapped a five-game losing streak Monday night, beating the Houston Astros 7-5 despite losing Ken Griffey Jr. to a stiff right hamstring.
“We had a tough week. We needed this game,” Valentin said. “I feel really happy. I feel really big. I feel like Reggie Jackson.”
Valentin has played in only 207 games during six major league seasons, but he put Cincinnati ahead 6-5 with a home run off Brad Lidge (0-1). D’Angelo Jimenez added a solo shot in the ninth for the Reds, who ended Houston’s four-game winning streak and went 4-6 on their longest road trip of the season.
Things were so bad in Cincinnati’s clubhouse after a 6-5 loss on Sunday that shortstop Barry Larkin held a players-only meeting in an attempt to bolster the team’s sagging spirits.
Apparently, it worked.
“This win showed a lot of character,” said Jacob Cruz, who hit a two-run double. “We could have folded. If we had let this one get away, it would have been tough.”
The only bit of bad news came when Griffey, hampered by a string of injuries the last three years, left in the third inning after striking out against Roy Oswalt. The center fielder was replaced by Jason Romano and is day-to-day.
Otherwise, Cincinnati finally showed a little late-game grit.
The Reds, who led in each of their past five defeats, couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead because starter Paul Wilson stumbled in the sixth.
But Cincinnati rallied on Valentin’s soaring shot to right-center. The ball dropped right into the Astros’ bullpen—appropriately enough.
Jimenez homered to right field in the ninth, and Danny Graves got three outs for his major league-leading 11th save in 14 chances.
Each ball fell just short of the wall.
“He had to go through the teeth of their order,” Reds manager Dave Miley said of Graves. “The one Berkman hit worried me because he was at the wall.”
John Riedling (1-0) earned the win, allowing two hits in 1 1-3 innings.
Oswalt, who is 8-0 in 12 career appearances against the Reds, had a shaky outing.
The right-hander allowed two-run doubles to Sean Casey and Cruz. Oswalt went six innings, allowing six hits and striking out seven. He left trailing 4-2.
“I couldn’t find the feel all night,” Oswalt said. “The ball was just flying out of my hand.
“I felt better in the third and fourth innings, but then I kind of lost itagain after that. It was bad all around.”
Former President Bush and his wife, Barbara, had front-row seats behind the plate. … Houston RHP Roger Clemens was named NL pitcher of the month. It’s the 15th time in his career he’s been named pitcher of the month, the first in the NL. Clemens, who is 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA, last earned the honor in June 2001 with the New York Yankees. … The Reds gave up 10 hits, the ninthtime in 10 games they’ve allowed at least that many.