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Reds 8, Astros 2

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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP)

Aaron Harang took another step in getting beyond his dismal 2008 season, pitching four scoreless innings Wednesday during the Cincinnati Reds' 8-2 victory over the Houston Astros. Harang lost 17 games last season, by far the worst of his career, and slimmed down in the offseason. Cincinnati is counting on him to anchor a rotation that could be the team's strength this year. "This was definitely my best outing so far," said Harang, who gave up three hits and struck out four without walking a batter. "I felt really good. I hit my spots and kept the ball down. I made them hit my pitch." Harang went 6-17 with a 4.78 ERA in 30 appearances last year. It was a huge decline for a pitcher who won 16 games each of the previous two seasons. "Harang is getting better and better," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He threw some great breaking balls." Right-hander Jeff Fulchino, trying to win a spot in Houston's bullpen, gave up five hits and four runs in two innings. The 29-year-old reliever was claimed off waivers from Kansas City in December and had pitched well until Wednesday. "I was behind in the count a lot and my off-speed stuff wasn't in the zone very much," Fulchino said. "I had a little trouble throwing that for strikes. You can only go so far with just throwing fastballs for strikes." The Astros are 2-11-2 in spring training, including exhibitions against World Baseball Classic teams. Although the record is irrelevant, manager Cecil Cooper doesn't like the way his club is playing. "What's it been, 11 or 12 games and we haven't hit or pitched in any of them, or fielded?" Cooper said. "We just stunk and keep stinking and after a while, you can't blame it on youth and young kids. We've got some veterans that can throw and that are competing for jobs. I'm not seeing a whole lot." Cincinnati's Laynce Nix hit his second home run of the spring with a runner on against reliever Bud Norris. Houston's Drew Sutton hit a two-run homer off Jared Burton in the eighth inning to avoid the shutout. Right-hander Homer Bailey, one of several candidates for the fifth starter's spot, pitched two scoreless innings. Bailey pitched on only three days of rest because the Reds are off Thursday. He gave up three hits. "Homer wasn't sharp, but he got out of trouble," Baker said. Notes: Astros RHP Brandon Backe will be sidelined for about 10 days. He left Sunday's game with strained muscles in his left side. ... INF Edwin Maysonet (sprained right ankle) and OF Reggie Abercrombie (broken big left toe) might be ready to return on Saturday. ... LHP Wandy Rodriguez threw 30 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday. He is scheduled to make his first start on Saturday. ... Because the Dominican Republic was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic by the Netherlands on Tuesday night, the Reds will get pitchers Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Pedro Viola back, along with outfielder Willy Taveras.
Tagged: Astros, Reds

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