CINCINNATI (AP)—For the first time all season, there was a joyful sound in the Houston Astros’ clubhouse—music, sweet music, bouncing off those cinderblock walls.
Why not? The NL’s last winless team had finally shed its unwanted distinction.
Matt Downs(notes) doubled home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the ninth inning on Thursday and the Astros held on for their first win of the season, 3-2 over the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Reds. They lined up and slapped hands in congratulations behind the pitcher’s mound for the first time.
This was no run-of-the-mill moment.
“Obviously we needed to get one, get it off our back,” said Downs, who had struck out in all three at-bats this season. “It starts building every day, and everybody starts talking about it.
“Everybody knows in the back of their minds that we haven’t won a game yet.”
Though it’s far less than what they wanted, it’s still much better than last season. The Astros dropped their first eight games in 2010, one shy of matching the franchise record for opening futility.
The drama turned their way, too.
Downs doubled off Nick Masset(notes) (0-1) for the lead in the top of the ninth, making the most of a second chance. Masset caught him looking at a curve in his previous at-bat, and Downs was ready for that pitch when he used it again.
“In the back of my mind, I thought he was going to come back to that pitch, and he did and left it in a spot where I could hit it,” Downs said.
The Reds had won their first five games—their best start since 1990—and gave themselves a chance to keep the streak going. Brandon Phillips(notes) and Joey Votto(notes) singled with two outs in the ninth off closer Brandon Lyon(notes), who blew a three-run lead in the season opener at Philadelphia.
Up came pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez(notes), who started the Reds’ fast start in an eerily similar circumstance. He hit a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth inning on opening day for a 7-6 win over Milwaukee.
“That’s what we did all last year,” Hernandez said. “It’s what we’ve done so far this year. We go (hard) until the last out is made and anything can happen.”
This time, he grounded into a forceout at second, leaving Texas as the only unbeaten team left in the majors.
The Reds won their first five with a dominating offense, scoring runs at a Big Red Machine pace. The splurge finally ended, and so did that winning streak.
Houston’s pitching staff had allowed only two homers coming in, one of the best marks in the majors. The Astros gave themselves a chance by getting the Reds into a game of small ball—more suited to their lineup.
Credit Myers for that.
The right-hander didn’t let Cincinnati’s offense get rolling. Edgar Renteria(notes) doubled home a run in the second, and the Reds went on to load the bases with two outs, giving themselves a chance to break it open. Myers got Drew Stubbs(notes) to pop up a full-count pitch.
Rolen’s solo homer on Myers’ 106th and final pitch tied it at 2 in the bottom of the seventh. It was the fourth career pinch-hit homer for Rolen, who was out of the lineup in a day game following a night game.
Myers also pitched well in the season opener, when the Phillies rallied against Lyon for a 5-4 win. This time, the closer held on.
The Astros came in batting only .214 with a league-low two homers. They squeezed out a pair of runs on groundouts: Hunter Pence(notes) drove in a first-inning run with a grounder, and Carlos Lee(notes) tripled and scored on Brett Wallace’s(notes) groundout in the fourth.
NOTES: There was a moment of silence before the start of the game for former Reds pitching coach Larry Shepard, who died on Tuesday. … The Astros have their home opener Friday against Florida, starting a 10-game homestand. The Reds begin their first road trip in Arizona. … Astros CF Michael Bourn(notes) didn’t play because of a sore groin. … Dusty Baker has won 248 games managing the Reds. He’s two wins shy of becoming the 11th manager to win at least 250 games with three teams. He also did it with the Giants and Cubs. … The crowd of 20,014 included a walk-up sale of 6,301.