Reds fall under .500 with loss to Astros

— The defending NL Central champions haven’t been this low in nearly a year.

J.A. Happ singled home a run during Houston’s six-run fourth inning — its biggest of the season — and the Astros beat the Reds 10-4 on Tuesday night, leaving Cincinnati with its first losing record in nearly a year.

The Reds fell to 14-15, the first time they’ve been below .500 since they had an identical mark last May 7. Owner Bob Castellini visited manager Dusty Baker’s office after the game, offering encouragement.

“He was talking to me, telling me to keep my head up,” Baker said. “Where I come from, it’s OK to get down as long as you don’t stay down. That’s the secret. Everybody gets down. The key is not staying down.”

The Reds need to get their pitching staff in order. Their latest loss might prompt them to make a long-planned move.

The Astros sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth, knocking Mike Leake (3-1) out of the game. It was the right-hander’s first start since he settled his shoplifting case, and one of the worst of his career. He gave up seven runs — matching his career high — in only 3 2-3 innings, his shortest appearance of the season.

The 23-year-old pitcher has had a rough time lately. He settled his shoplifting case last Friday, pleading to a lesser charge of unauthorized use of property. He was sentenced to community service.

Now, his struggles on the mound might lose him a spot in the rotation. Baker said after the game that the Reds intend to bring right-hander Johnny Cueto off the disabled list on Sunday to start in Chicago, likely sending Leake to the bullpen.

“He’ll probably go to the bullpen,” Baker said. “We planned to do that anyway, coming out of spring training. Tonight was the first game where he really got whacked around. You can’t pick the nights when you get whacked around.”

Leake seemed to lose some of his aggressiveness.

“I was kind of leaving the ball out over the middle of the plate,” he said. “I wasn’t getting ahead — a lot of 2-0 counts. I wasn’t attacking.”

Happ (2-4) ended a personal streak of three straight losses, which matched the longest of his career. He went 6 1-3 innings, allowing four runs.

He also extended his surprising success at the plate. Happ was only 4 for 77 in his career (.052) heading into this season. In six starts, he’s gone 5 for 10 with three RBIs, part of an impressive showing at the plate by the Astros’ staff. Houston’s pitchers lead the majors with a .291 average.

Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace had solo homers for the Astros, who evened their season series at two games apiece. Wallace extended his hitting streak to 11 games, a career high, while Hunter Pence pushed his hitting streak to a season-high seven games.

Both starters got an extra day of rest when the opening game of the series was postponed by rain on Monday night. Happ handled the adjustment better. His showing was a huge improvement over his other start in Cincinnati this season, an 8-2 loss on April 5, when he struggled to throw strikes.

The Astros had a big night despite missing outfielder Carlos Lee, who bruised the left side of his ribcage in a collision with shortstop Angel Sanchez on Sunday. Lee rejoined the team after getting tests at a hospital that found no fracture. He’s limited to getting treatment.

His replacement in the lineup came through. Jason Bourgeois’ two-run double off reliever Jordan Smith completed the six-run fourth inning and made it 7-1. Bourgeois had a single and a pair of doubles, leaving him 10 for 17 in the last seven games.

NOTES: Astros INF Joe Inglett cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City. … OF Jason Michaels will hit for a few days before starting a rehab assignment in the minors. Michaels separated his left shoulder on April 24 and went on the 15-day DL. … Joey Votto has reached base safely in all 29 Reds games this season, five shy of Dave Collins’ modern-day club record from 1981. Votto and Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun are the only major leaguers who have reached safely in every game this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … 2B Brandon Phillips fielded Bourgeois’ slow roller with his bare hand and flipped it between his legs to first base to get the out in the third inning.