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Cincinnati’s Joey Votto crushes the ball at Minute Maid Park,

while Bronson Arroyo typically shuts down the Houston Astros’


That combination could make for a long afternoon for the

slumping Astros in Sunday’s series finale, as the NL

Central-leading Reds look to complete a sweep.

Cincinnati (30-22) matched season highs with 14 hits and four

homers Saturday, scoring its most runs of the year in a 12-9 win

over Houston. Votto, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier all

went deep, while Brandon Phillips doubled in the go-ahead run in

the sixth inning and added two more RBIs in the eighth for the

Reds, who won despite blowing an 8-2 lead after two innings.

“You know you’re going to have to win games like that,”

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “Especially if you’re going to

go a long ways, you’ve got to figure out how to win them.”

Having Votto in his lineup certainly helps.

The 2010 NL MVP went 4 for 4 with two RBIs, three runs and a

walk Saturday, and is batting .581 with two homers, five doubles

and 10 runs scored during a nine-game hitting streak. He’s also

riding a 20-game hitting streak at Minute Maid Park, batting .494

with five home runs, 15 doubles, and 19 RBIs during that run.

If that weren’t enough to strike fear into the Astros (22-31),

Votto is 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles lifetime against

Jordan Lyles (0-1, 5.73 ERA), Sunday’s scheduled starter for


Arroyo (2-3, 3.59), meanwhile, is 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA in his

last nine starts against Houston since August 2008. The last time

he faced the Astros, he threw a six-hitter in the Reds’ 2-0 home

victory Sept. 21.

Arroyo hasn’t been particularly sharp lately, yielding four runs

in three of his last four starts. The right-hander allowed four

runs and eight hits Monday in a season-low four innings of a 4-1

loss to Pittsburgh.

Arroyo will have to contend with a Houston team that has plated

at least five runs in five of its last six games, though that

hasn’t allowed the Astros to end a losing streak that now stands at


Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie, J.D. Martinez and Chris Johnson

combined to go 9 for 16 with six RBIs and scored seven times

Saturday, but the Astros still lost. Altuve is batting .372 with

nine runs in his last nine games, while Martinez is hitting .412

with four RBIs in his last four.

“They put themselves in a position to win a game,” manager Brad

Mills said. “When you come back from a deficit like that, that

shows a lot of heart.”

Houston hasn’t dropped nine a row since Sept. 13-22, 2009, and

giving the ball to Lyles might not be the best way to snap the skid

considering the Astros have lost all four of his starts.

The right-hander gave up six runs and six hits in five innings

of Monday’s 7-6 loss to Colorado. He made his season debut in

Cincinnati on April 29, getting no decision in the Astros’ 6-5 loss

after yielding three runs in six innings.