Astros 2, Reds 2, 7 innings

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CINCINNATI (AP)—They got wet. They blew chances for a rain-shortened win. They wound up with a tied game and a makeup doubleheader.

No one had a good night.

Ken Griffey Jr. singled home a tying run in the fourth inning, and the second storm of the evening forced the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros to settle for a 2-2, seven-inning tie Thursday night.

The game will be replayed from the start on Saturday as part of a doubleheader, the opener scheduled to begin at 5:10 p.m. EDT. The statistics count, so the few players who got hits came away with better statistics.

“That’s about all it’s good for,” Astros manager Phil Garner said.

Griffey, still weakened by a virus that sidelined him the last two days, had a pair of singles to lead an offense that wasted chances up to the end. Griffey also was involved in one of the most memorable tie games in Cincinnati—his hometown debut in the 2000 season opener.

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 57 minutes by a storm that dumped heavy rain and window-rattling hail for nearly an hour, leaving parts of the field submerged. Both teams then spent seven innings wasting chances to end June with a rain-shortened win.

The Reds had the final opportunity, putting runners on second and third against reliever Chad Qualls with two outs in the seventh. Lightning flashed overhead, the grounds crew crouched behind the rolled-up tarp, and raindrops started falling while Javier Valentin struck out, keeping it tied at 2.

Qualls had seen the radar, knew another storm was approaching and understood that he couldn’t afford to give up a run that would have handed Cincinnati a seven-inning win.

“I knew once it started to rain, it was not going to stop,” Qualls said. “It started coming down a little bit—the drops were big. I knew if a run scored there, it was probably going to be the game.”

The Reds started warming up for the eighth, but a downpour prevented the game from continuing.

The Astros ended the month on an upswing—seven wins in the last 10 games for a 16-9 mark in June with one tie. It was their best June since 1989, when they went 18-10.

By contrast, the Reds were in another downturn, having lost four in a row heading into Thursday’s game. They’re 17 games under .500 and 19 games out of first place in the NL Central, both season lows.

They couldn’t even pull off the win on a night when left-hander Eric Milton avoided giving up a homer.

Milton, the cornerstone of the Reds’ offseason overhaul, gave one of his best performances, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings. For only the third time in 17 starts, he didn’t give up a homer—he has allowed 27 in all, most in the majors.

“I was myself out there tonight,” said Milton, who is 3-9 with a 7.40 ERA. “I don’t know where it went to or where it’s been, but it’s what I need to be.”

His only major mistake was a pitch over the plate to Astros starter Brandon Backe, whose two-out, bases-loaded double drove in both of Houston’s runs in the second inning. Milton remained winless since May 23, but he’s looked a little better his last two starts.

“I thought Milton threw really well,” interim manager Jerry Narron said. “That’s the best he’s looked. The last couple of innings in Cleveland, then today. He had command of both sides of the plate.

“I had a chance to see him when he was with Minnesota, and I think we’re going to see that.”

Narron shuffled his struggling lineup, moving Adam Dunn—the club’s home run leader—to second in the order and dropping Sean Casey to fifth. It didn’t solve their biggest problem: an inability to get runners home.

Backe had another poor performance, lasting only 3 2-3 innings. The right-hander matched his career high with six walks—he walked the bases loaded in the second, then walked Dunn to force in a run.

The Reds left the bases loaded in the second, and stranded nine runners in the first four innings.

Notes

Backe is 0-3 in his last four starts, giving up 20 runs in 18 1-3 innings. The double was the first of his career. … The Astros’ best June was in 1979, when they went 20-8. … 3B Morgan Ensberg finished with 28 RBIs in June, tied for second most in club history. Jose Cruz drove in 29 runs in June 1984. … Ensberg also had 10 homers in the month. … Lance Berkman went 0-for-3, ending his hitting streak at nine games. … The Reds are 3-4 with one tie since Narron replaced the fired Dave Miley.

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