CINCINNATI (AP)—Todd Coffey lost it.
Unable to control his anger over a disputed call, the Cincinnati Reds reliever got ejected during the game’s pivotal at-bat, helping the Houston Astros rally for a 7-3 victory Wednesday that averted a sweep.
His outburst wasn’t the only wacky thing during Houston’s six-run rally in the seventh inning, but it was the most telling. A Reds team trying to reach the playoffs for the first time in 11 years came unhinged with the game on the line.
“I let the team down and made myself look like an idiot out there,” Coffey said.
The fading Astros took full advantage.
Aubrey Huff’s bases-loaded single was the biggest hit during the 11-batter rally, which got Houston’s slumping offense rolling again.
Willy Taveras bunted for a single that extended his hitting streak to a club-record 26 games, and Adam Everett homered and drove in a pair of runs for the defending NL champions, who have lost 9 of 12 and are starting to feel desperation.
Houston is at the back of the pack of playoff contenders, trailing Cincinnati by six games for the wild card.
“We lost a lot of ground the last three or four days,” said Roy Oswalt (10-8), who improved to 16-1 career against Cincinnati. “We’ve got to go to Pittsburgh and pretty much sweep the Pirates.”
The Reds had won four in a row—their best streak in more than a month— but couldn’t keep it going because they couldn’t keep their thoughts to themselves.
Then, the meltdown began.
Plate umpire Wally Bell called a ball on a close pitch to Morgan Ensberg that left the count at 2-1. Catcher David Ross told the umpire that he disagreed, prompting Bell to remove his mask, stepped in front of him and lecture.
“He didn’t have to take off his mask and come around in front of me like that,” Ross said.
The next pitch looked low—Ross raised it back into the strike zone—but Coffey took a couple of steps toward the plate, screamed and waved his arm when Bell called it a ball. He was ejected.
“I think Wally had just had enough when Coffey came off the mound,” manager Jerry Narron said.
Ryan Franklin relieved with a 3-1 count on Ensberg, threw a called strike that drew a loud cheer from the crowd of 24,873, then walked him to force in the go-ahead run and end the drawn-out at-bat.
“It’s a lot easier when the count’s 3-1,” said Ensberg, who stayed out of the disputes. “Those things happen between a catcher and an umpire.”
That was it for Franklin, setting up an oddity. The walk was charged to Coffey, so Franklin threw two pitches without technically facing a batter.
Huff pinch-hit and broke it open with his two-run single off Rheal Cormier. Jason Lane’s single and Everett’s double drove in two more, making it 7-2. Everett also had a solo homer off starter Chris Machalak.
One final twist to the rally: Oswalt, who sacrificed for the first out, was lifted for a pinch-hitter the second time around.
Oswalt hadn’t pitched in nine days, letting his right hand recover from a nasty bruise left by Ronny Cedeno’s liner on Aug. 14. He wasn’t about to miss a chance to face the Reds, a team he beats nearly every time.
After giving up three hits and two runs to open the game, Oswalt dug in, allowing only two more hits.
“I had to turn it up after that first inning,” Oswalt said. “I got a little upset with myself after that first inning, and it carried through the game.”
Only two other players in the majors have longer streaks than Taveras this season. Philadelphia’s Chase Utley hit in 36 in a row from June 23 to Aug. 3, and Boston’s Manny Ramirez put together a 27-game streak from July 15 to Aug. 12. … The Reds reinstated Michalak off the bereavement list before the game and optioned OF Norris Hopper to Triple-A Louisville. Michalak had attended his grandmother’s funeral Tuesday. … Ken Griffey Jr. had an RBI double and a single, extending his hitting streak to eight games, matching his season high.