Astros 4, Reds 3
Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez is still struggling to throw strikes.
Volquez had his shortest outing of the year, going just four innings allowing three runs on three hits with three strikeouts, but he walked five.
''He drives in runs when they need them,'' Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Pence. ''He uses the whole field. He plays hard.''
Volquez didn't factor into the decision, but he knows he has to give the Reds more than he did Wednesday.
''I've got to find a way to throw strikes,'' Volquez said. ''My breaking ball and my changeup were good today, but I didn't have my fastball.''
On the season, the right hander has walked 33 in 42 1-3 innings. Volquez said he didn't know what the problem was, but sometimes it feels like his arm is too strong.
''I feel good,'' he said. ''Sometimes I throw strikes and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I feel strong, but it's too strong you can't control it. Today I didn't have my fastball command. I threw four innings and threw 88 pitches. I think everybody wants to go deep in the game - eight or seven innings. I want to go deep in the game.''
Baker said Volquez isn't reluctant to throw strikes. Volquez is aware of the walks and Baker knows that other teams know he is struggling with it.
Volquez wasn't the only Reds pitcher with command issues. Cincinnati walked nine batters total on Wednesday.
After falling behind 3-1, the Reds tied it with back-to-back homers in the seventh by pinch hitter Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs.
Cincinnati then loaded the bases off Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez with two outs, but Jonny Gomes' grounder up the middle was stopped by diving second baseman Matt Downs, who flipped shortstop Clint Barmes for the third out.
''The key play of the game was that play by the second baseman on Gomes,'' Baker said. ''We had a chance to take the lead at the time. We fought to get back, but it is very difficult to win when you give up nine walks. Three of their four runs were walked.''
Before Pence hit the winner off Mike Leake (3-2) in the ninth, Pence nearly started a two-out rally in the seventh by legging out a double. Brett Wallace was intentionally walked, and Chris Johnson walked to load the bases before Logan Ondrusek induced a fly out by Downs to end the inning.
''He can hit the ball out of the ballpark,'' Stubbs said. ''When you get a guy like that, he's dangerous to start with. On top of that, he can run. He caught me sleeping on one, and he took the extra base. He's a threat to hurt you at the plate.''
Cincinnati's first run came when Joey Votto tripled and scored on a groundout by Brandon Phillips with no outs in the fourth inning to make it 3-1. Ramon Hernandez singled with two outs but Rodriguez struck out Jay Bruce to escape the inning.
Houston added a run in the third inning when Wallace scored on a sacrifice fly by Downs. Volquez walked Pence before he was out on a force out by Wallace. Johnson followed with a double to left field to send Wallace to third before Downs' sacrifice.
Volquez walked three straight with one out in the second before retiring Rodriguez to set up Michael Bourn's two-out, two-RBI single.
Phillips robbed Johnson of a hit for the second time in the series when he made a leaping, midair catch for the first out in the second inning. On Monday, Phillips made a nifty diving catch that ended in a belly flop.
NOTES: Paul Janish was back in the lineup Wednesday after missing the previous four games with a sprained right ankle. ... Houston OF Jason Michaels, who is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, could be activated on Friday when Houston opens a series with the Mets.