Astros 10, Reds 7

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CINCINNATI (AP)—Flattened by a fastball that barely missed his head, Morgan Ensberg got up and collected his scrambled thoughts.

The third baseman knew he was lucky that all he got was dirty. He also knew he couldn’t dwell on the moment.

He didn’t. Ensberg dug in and hit the next pitch—another high fastball— into the upper deck for a three-run homer Friday night, leading the Houston Astros to an emphatic 10-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

“That’s the way to answer,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “That’s old-school. This stuff of charging the mound came in recent memory. That’s the way you talked back in the old days.”

Ensberg, one of the majors’ best hitters in June, also had a pair of doubles, starting a new month on the same tear. The third baseman has 11 homers and 32 RBIs since June 1.

Lance Berkman drove in a pair of runs with a double and a single off Luke Hudson (1-3), adding to his legacy of tormenting the Reds. Adam Everett added a two-run homer, his first in more than a month.

The outburst helped Andy Pettitte (5-7) muddle through a tough night. The left-hander gave up 10 hits and four runs in six innings, needing 122 pitches to get that far. He took a comeback grounder off his right forearm in the sixth, but finished the inning.

“It was a miracle I got through six innings,” Pettitte said. “They fouled off pitch after pitch. They just about broke my will out there a little bit. It was a battle.”

Rich Aurilia’s bases-loaded double off John Franco cut it to 10-7 in the eighth. Dan Wheeler, filling in for ailing closer Brad Lidge, got the last three outs for his first save in two chances.

The Astros have won 15 of their last 19 games against the Reds, including seven of 10 at Great American Ball Park. They played the series opener to a 2-all tie Thursday night, when rain ended it after seven innings.

Houston wasted no time taking control of this one.

Berkman and Ensberg had run-scoring doubles in the first off Hudson, who had the NL’s highest earned run average in June at 8.35. The right-hander didn’t get any better with the turn of the calendar.

Hudson gave up a career-high seven runs in 2 1-3 innings against Cleveland last Saturday, and didn’t even reach the third inning this time. Berkman had a run-scoring single in the second inning, part of a three-hit game that raised his career average against Cincinnati to .341.

Next up was Ensberg, who tumbled backward to avoid getting hit in the forehead. Catcher Jason LaRue had to stretch on one leg to catch it.

“The fastball up-and-in was about as close as you can come to getting hit without getting hit,” Ensberg said. “It just sailed on him. Certainly he was not trying to hit me there. I wanted to make sure I was not rattled.”

Ensberg got off his back, dug in with a determined look and hit the next pitch—a chest-high fastball—into the upper deck in left field for his 21st homer, rounding the bases with his head down.

“It’s just a situation where he’s hot right now,” Hudson said. “I thought about throwing a curve, but I decided to come back with a fastball again. I got underneath it again. This time I missed over the plate.”

In his last two starts, Hudson has given up 13 runs in 4 1-3 innings, bloating his ERA to 10.18. The Reds’ pitching staff is last in the majors with a 6.06 earned run average.

Hudson thinks he’s just trying too hard.

“I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself and I’m being hard on myself,” Hudson said. “Nothing felt right, not so much mechanical but mental. I’m just thinking too much.”

The Reds also lead the majors in giving up homers. Everett added a two-run shot off Ricky Stone, the 121st off Cincinnati pitchers. His last homer was May 31, also off Stone.

Notes

The Astros plan to call up RHP Ezequiel Astacio from Triple-A between games of Saturday’s doubleheader to start the second game. Astacio went 0-3 with a 10.98 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances before his demotion June 1. … The Reds will start Ramon Ortiz on two days of rest. … Astros reliever Russ Springer struck out the four batters he faced. … Cincinnati fell a season-high 18 games under .500 and a season-high 19 1/2 out of first place. … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the NL’s three worst earned run averages in June belonged to the Reds: Hudson (8.35), Ortiz (8.28) and Eric Milton (8.02). They’re making a combined $11.9 million this year.

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