Astros 3, Reds 2

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CINCINNATI (AP)—The ball from the last out rested on the shelf of Woody Williams’ locker, right next to a can of glove wax.

This one was a keeper.

Williams singled home a run that set up his first victory for his hometown Houston Astros, 3-2 over the slumping Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night. Then, he made sure he got a memento.

“I don’t have a big collection, but that’s definitely one I’m going to cherish,” said Williams, who needed eight tries to get win No. 1. “It’s nice. I can’t lie to you. It’s a good feeling. Any time you win it’s nice, but to have the Astros uniform on is very special to me.”

He got help from a hitter who does special things when he faces the Reds. Lance Berkman homered for the third game in a row, leaving him with 15 career homers at Great American Ball Park, the most by any opponent.

“It’s a beautiful park,” Berkman said. “It’s hitter-friendly.”

Lately, it’s become Berkman’s best friend—and a good pal to the Astros, too. Houston improved to 7-1 against the Reds this season, including 5-0 at Great American. The teams finish their series on Thursday.

“Let’s just keep the good things going,” manager Phil Garner said.

Nothing is going right for the Reds, who lead their division in self-destruction. Their bullpen is the NL’s worst and their defense is right near the bottom, setting up a lot of deflating losses that have sunk them to new depths.

The Reds fell into last place in the NL Central with their seventh loss in eight games. They have a 10-game deficit for the first time since the end of the 2005 season, when they finished 27 back.

On Wednesday, a pair of throwing errors by third baseman Edwin Encarnacion set up the Astros’ three runs.

“Three unearned runs—those guys right now are finding ways to win games,” manager Jerry Narron said. “We’ve got to start finding ways to win games. Right now, it seems like we’re finding ways to lose games.”

Williams (1-5) singled home the tiebreaking run in the fourth inning and held the Reds to a pair of runs—on Adam Dunn’s 10th homer—in 6 2-3 innings. The 40-year-old pitcher signed with his hometown team in November, getting a two-year, $12.5 million deal, but struggled mightily in April.

His bullpen helped him get that elusive first win.

Brad Lidge retired the four batters he faced, and Dan Wheeler pitched the ninth for his third save of the series, leaving him 7-of-8 overall. Wheeler’s last six saves have come against the Reds.

Lidge was particularly impressive, throwing seven strikes in 11 pitches to the toughest part of the Reds’ order. He lost his closer’s job a week into the season, but has worked his way into a setup role for Wheeler.

“I really do feel right now I’m throwing the ball as good as I have in my entire career,” Lidge said. “I’m staying aggressive and going right after guys, which is what I’ve done in the past.”

Cincinnati’s defense undercut one of Matt Belisle’s best performances. Belisle (3-2) struck out a career-high seven in seven innings, but couldn’t overcome Encarnacion’s two errors.

“This is an unforgiving league, but that tide rolls both ways,” Belisle said. “We’ll get the situation going our way one of these days.”

Berkman hit a two-run drive in a third inning that was extended when Encarnacion fielded Morgan Ensberg’s routine grounder with two outs and bounced his throw to first. Berkman has 38 career homers and 107 runs batted in against the Reds, by far his best totals against any team.

Dunn matched his homer with a two-run shot in the bottom half, his fifth homer in his last 10 games.

Encarnacion had another throwing error with two outs in the fourth, allowing Adam Everett to reach safely. After Everett stole second, Humberto Quintero was walked to bring up Williams, who singled to center for a 3-2 lead.

Notes

Berkman’s homer extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. … Astros 2B Craig Biggio led off the game with a double off the glove of diving right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., extending his hitting streak to a season-high eight games. … LHP Eddie Guardado threw breaking balls off a mound for the first time since his reconstructive elbow surgery last September. He hopes to return to the Reds at midseason. … Reds 2B Brandon Phillips singled in his first at-bat, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. … Griffey went 0-for-4, ending his six-game hitting streak. … Cincinnati fell to 7-12 at home.

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