Bruce comes up big as Reds down Astros
Jay Bruce is getting used to not playing every day. But he probably won't need to get used to it for long.
That is if Bruce continues to hit the way he did Saturday when he went 2 for 3, drove in three runs and scored twice as the Cincinnati Reds won their sixth straight game, 10-4 over the Houston Astros.
Bruce was leading the Reds in home runs with 18 when he fractured his right wrist in mid July.
Since returning from the disabled list Sept. 13, he has started six games and appeared in 11.
"I've never not played every day," Bruce said. "So it was a little different coming back. But I continue to make the adjustments and they are easier to make when you're winning."
Bruce admitted he needed to get his timing back when he returned. He has now gone 10 for 27 at the plate (.370) and had 11 RBIs since his return, including a homer and a double Saturday.
"I'm starting to get in a little bit of a groove," Bruce said. "I'm making better decisions now. The biggest thing for me is just not swinging at bad pitches."
Manager Dusty Baker agrees.
"This game's a whole a lot easier when you're scoring runs," Baker said. "Jay Bruce had an outstanding game. He has been very patient at the plate lately."
Laynce Nix also homered and drove in three runs and Juan Francisco and Corky Miller each had two RBIs for the Reds, who have won 10 of 12 and 23 of 33 overall. They beat the Astros for the ninth straight time.
Miguel Tejada was 4 for 4 with two RBIs for the Astros, who have lost 11 of 12 and dropped to 1-4 under interim manager Dave Clark.
Former Astros ace Roger Clemens was on the field before the game to videotape his son Koby being honored as one of Houston's top minor league players. Koby Clemens hit .345 with 121 RBIs at Class A Lancaster to top all Astros farmhands in those categories.
Justin Lehr (5-2) went five innings for Cincinnati, yielding four runs and six hits.
Hunter Pence hit a solo drive in the second and Tejada connected in the third against Lehr, who tied a club record when he allowed five homers Sept. 16 outing against Houston.
Cincinnati pushed across two runs in the second, three in the third and made it 8-2 with three in the fifth. Nix hit a two-run drive off Felipe Paulino (2-11) in the second for his 14th homer and added a sacrifice fly in the third. Francisco had a two-run single in the third and Miller doubled in a pair of runs in the fifth.
Paulino (2-11) gave up eight runs and nine hits in five innings, dropping to 0-7 with a 7.71 ERA in his last 10 games.
Despite Paulino's struggles, the Astros say they are still firmly behind him.
"We just have to stay away from big innings," Clark said. "We think a lot of Paulino. Right now he's still in that process of learning how to pitch at this level.
"Sometimes he gets a little too amped, starts overthrowing it. When he's like that he's just a different guy. We just need him to settle down and be more consistent in the strike zone."
Paulino still believes in himself.
"I made a lot of mistakes today," he said. "Hitters, they'll make you pay for that.
"I put it on myself. For four or five games, I had been consistent. But today I was just never feeling well when I was delivering the ball and that's why I made a lot of mistakes."
NOTES: Reds 3B Scott Rolen missed his second straight game with back spasms. He is expected to sit out again Sunday, then be re-evaluated. Nix's second-inning homer snapped an 0-for-20 string. Houston's 20 home runs in its last 15 games leads the NL in that span. Pence's 25th homer in the second inning tied his career high set last year.