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AP - Sports

After a big performance by one of their native Texans, the Cincinnati Reds hope La Grange native Homer Bailey can provide a strong showing Saturday night.

Bailey takes the mound for the Reds, who go for a fifth straight win as they continue their weekend series against the major league-worst Houston Astros.

Cincinnati opened the series with a 9-3 win Friday behind a three-run homer from Jay Bruce and six solid innings from Mike Leake.

The Reds (81-52), who are one-half game behind Washington for the majors' best record, increased their lead over St. Louis in the NL Central to a season-high 9 1/2 games.

"It's a good time for us to finish up strong and really go and finish up September and hopefully go into the postseason strong," Bruce said.

Unsurprisingly, given their respective records, Cincinnati is 8-2 against Houston (40-92) this year, winning four straight - all at Minute Maid Park.

Bruce, who is from nearby Beaumont, is hitting .379 against the Astros this year. He has two homers and seven RBIs in seven games in Houston.

"Maybe that I'm close to home, I'm comfortable, I like the park," Bruce said. "I can't really explain it."

He's not the only Texan on the Reds who enjoys playing close to home. Bailey (10-9, 4.24 ERA) is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three career starts in Houston.

Overall, Bailey is 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA in six career outings against the Astros. He gave up five hits in seven scoreless innings at Houston on July 25, but didn't get a decision in Cincinnati's 5-3 victory.

Facing the Astros again could be just what Bailey needs to pick up his first win in four starts. He's 0-2 in his last three outings, including an 8-2 loss to St. Louis on Sunday in which he gave up five runs and a season high-tying nine hits over six innings.

"That's the way it goes,'' said Bailey, who has a 7.03 ERA over his last six outings. "I can hold my head up high. I was trying to get them to hit ground balls and get some double plays and keep the ball in the yard. It wasn't like I was all over the place. I didn't have any walks. You've just got to tip your cap to them."

The right-hander will try to hand Houston - which finished August with a 5-22 record - its seventh straight loss.

One of the few bright spots for the Astros has been Lucas Harrell (10-9, 3.92), who is slated to get the ball Saturday.

He limited the New York Mets to one run and two hits in seven innings Sunday, but didn't get a decision after Houston lost 2-1.

The right-hander has a 2.75 ERA over his last nine starts, although Houston has failed to score for him in five of those outings and has lost six of those contests.

Harrell is 0-1 in two starts against the Reds this season, yielding seven runs over 13 innings while getting two total runs of support.

Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games with three hits Friday, is 4 for 8 off Harrell.

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