CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Houston Astros have finally started
hitting -- just in time to watch first place slip away.
Houston has lost four in a row, matching its worst slump of the
season, and fallen out of the top spot in the NL Central for the
first time since July 7. The Astros hadn't lost four straight since
Now, they're a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs, tied with St.
Louis for second place.
"Everybody goes through this situation, and we're in it right
now," said reliever Octavio Dotel, who allowed the Reds to rally
for five runs in the seventh. "I hope it changes."
Houston's slumping offense finally came around, but a usually
dependable bullpen melted down, giving up more runs in one night
than it had in the last eight games.
"We're having a few rough days," said starter Ron Villone, who
hit his first career homer and turned a 3-2 lead over to the
bullpen. "We've got to get over them. We'll be all right."
A day after they ended a 16-game losing streak against Arizona,
the Reds broke a 10-game skid against the Astros by getting yet
another game-ending hit.
"That's a pitch they've been getting me out on for the last
couple of years," said Dunn, who has produced 43 of his 57 RBI
off homers. "I'm either a little too early or a little too late,
and I pop it up."
Not if the game's in extra innings, the only time when the Reds
are consistently at their best.
It was the Reds' 13th game-ending hit of the season and their
27th win in their last at-bat, most in the majors. Fourteen of
their 54 wins have come in extra innings.
Ryan Wagner (2-0) pitched the 10th to get his second career
Cincinnati had lost eight of its last 10 games, getting shut out
three times during that span as its offense ground to a halt. The
Reds had scored only four runs in their last four games.
They finally got rolling against the Astros' bullpen, which
allowed six of the nine runs.
It stayed tied until the seventh, when Villone led off with his
first career homer. The left-hander swung from his heels on a 1-1
pitch, sending the ball well back into the seats in right field for
a 3-2 lead.
"I'm up there just swinging," said Villone, who homered in his
152nd career at-bat. "I got lucky and ran into it. I'd trade it
for a win, though."
The milestone homer put Villone in line to improve to 6-0 career
against his former team, but Dotel couldn't hold the lead. The
reliever loaded the bases with a walk in the bottom of the seventh,
then gave up a two-run double to Ray Olmedo and a two-run single by
LaRue. Jimenez's RBI single made it 7-3.
The Reds bullpen then had a meltdown of its own, depriving
Graves of his first victory since July 1. John Riedling gave up a
sacrifice fly to Geoff Blum for the second out in the eighth, and
Craig Biggio followed with his third hit of the game, a three-run
homer that tied it at 7.
Packs of 2003 Reds baseball cards were handed out as part
of a promotion. The packs included manager Bob Boone, who was fired
on July 28, two of his fired coaches and five players who were
later traded. ... Villone's homer was the first by an Astros
pitcher since Shane Reynolds on May 31, 2001. ... Kent's homer
extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... Reds SS Barry Larkin
will sit out the three-game series. He hasn't played since Tuesday,
when he aggravated scar tissue from a hernia operation in 2001. ...
Olmedo's throwing error at SS was the Reds' 111th in 121 games, the
most in the majors.
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