Berkman homers twice as Astros outlast Reds 7-6

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CINCINNATI (AP)—The more Houston’s Lance Berkman hits against Cincinnati, the more he likes it—especially at Great American Ball Park.

Berkman padded his Cincinnati legacy Wednesday night, hitting two of Houston’s four home runs to help set up Luke Scott’s game-winning single in the eighth inning as the Astros beat the Reds 7-6.

Berkman’s homers give him 41 in his career against the Reds, more than he’s hit against any other team. His 17 home runs at Great American Ball Park lead all opposing players.

“When you have success at a ballpark, there’s just something about it,” Berkman said. “I see the ball good here, and obviously, it’s a good place to hit. It’s one of those things where, when you have success at a place, you start feeling favorable towards it. Obviously, it’s a good park for hitting home runs.”

Hunter Pence homered for the second time in two nights and Carlos Lee added a solo shot as Houston matched its season-high for homers in a game while sending the Reds to their fourth consecutive loss. The Astros have hit four home runs in a game six times this season.

Berkman added two singles for his 14th career four-hit game and first since Sept. 23, 2006, against St. Louis. His four RBIs give him at least 100 for the second consecutive season and fifth time in eight seasons.

“That’s important,” he said. “That’s my goal every year. When you reach it, you rest easy knowing that you did your job in the middle of the lineup.”

The two teams combined for 15 extra-base hits—10 doubles and five home runs.

Lee hit a double to right off of Jared Burton (4-2) with two outs in the eight inning, and Scott followed with a single up the middle. Lee slid into foul territory to avoid Javier Valentin’s tag while sweeping the plate with his left hand—a textbook play, Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper said.

“That’s the way to do it—slide away and sneak that hand in,” he said. “He’s been a very, very good camper. People say he doesn’t hustle, and he might not always run to first base hard, but when the game’s on the line, he runs hard.”

Rookie Dennis Sarfate (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings to win his first career decision. Chad Qualls pitched the ninth for his fifth save in 10 opportunities.

Berkman hit a three-run homer, his 32nd of the season, in the first inning to take over the club lead. Lee, the next batter, hit his 32nd as Houston sent nine batters to the plate and knocked Reds starter Tom Shearn out of the game in a four-run, 21-minute top of the first.

Shearn retired just two batters, allowing four hits, four runs and two walks.

Brandon Phillips cut Houston’s lead in half in the bottom of the first with his 30th homer of the season, joining Alfonso Soriano as the only two second basemen in major league history to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season.

The homer was Phillips’ first in 51 at-bats dating to Sept. 12.

“I feel like I lost five pounds,” he joked. “The monkey’s off my back. It hasn’t really settled in yet. It’s amazing.”

Juan Gutierrez allowed five runs over the first two innings before finishing with three scoreless frames. He gave up seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

For the second straight night, Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin watched his team score five runs in the first two innings and nothing after against the opposing starter.

“The same old equation,” Mackanin said. “We get to the starter early, and we can’t tack on.”

Pence’s 17th homer of the season leading off the third inning tied the score at 5, and Berkman’s solo homer with two outs in the fourth inning gave Houston a 6-5 lead.


SS Adam Everett returned to the Astros starting lineup Wednesday night after being away from the team while his wife gave birth on Sunday to their second child. … OF Adam Dunn had season-ending arthroscopic surgery Wednesday morning to clean out his right knee and to repair the torn meniscus in that knee. Dunn is expected to recover fully in 4-6 weeks. … The Reds reinstated INF Jerry Gil from the 60-day disabled list and transferred OF Ryan Freel to the 60-day DL on Wednesday.

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