Reds rally late past Astros for win
A game that featured seven solo homers in the first five innings came down to an infield single, a wild pitch - and the Cincinnati bullpen.
Joey Votto scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning and the Reds overcame Jeff Keppinger's first career multihomer game and five Houston homers in a 6-5 victory over the Astros on Wednesday night.
Votto led off the seventh against Wesley Wright (3-3) with an infield single and went to third on a single by Brandon Phillips. Jeff Fulchino relieved Wright with Chris Coste going in at catcher in a double switch. Fulchino bounced a pitch that Coste couldn't handle, allowing Votto to break a 5-5 tie and give the Reds their second sweep of a three-game series against Houston in Cincinnati this season.
"That's why they call baseball a funny game," Fulchino said. "That's the way it goes. I threw a slider that backed up on me. I think if you ask Coste, he blocks that nine times out of 10, but it bounced the other way."
Reds manager Dusty Baker was glad to take it.
"It doesn't matter how you get it as long as you get it," Baker said. "It feels good to win again and get back on a winning streak."
Three Reds relievers combined to retire the last 11 batters. Jared Burton (1-0) retired all five he faced for the win. Nick Masset pitched a perfect eighth and Francisco Cordero worked the ninth for his 37th save and third in three games.
"We just got ahead of the hitters, especially in the last inning," said Cordero, who has three blown saves this season. "The bullpen's been lights out down there. I feel like I'm on a roll every time I have a save opportunity. I've got to go out there and do my job. That's why they pay me the money they pay me."
Keppinger, a former Red, had two of Houston's five solo shots - all off Reds starter Justin Lehr - but that wasn't enough to keep the Astros from their fourth consecutive loss.
"That was an interesting game to read between the lines," said Cincinnati's Jonny Gomes, who led off the second with his 20th homer. "It's tough to win a game with solo home runs."
Gomes, mired in a 3-for-24 slump going into the game, gave Cincinnati a 1-0 lead. Houston responded in the third with homers by Kaz Matsui, Carlos Lee and Keppinger, each of which was followed by an out.
Matsui's was his second homer in two nights and seventh of the season, matching the career high he set with the New York Mets in 2004. Lee's was his 26th, and Keppinger's was his sixth and first in 32 at-bats since Aug 28.
Drew Stubbs led off the Reds' third with his seventh homer of the season and second in two nights, and Scott Rolen added a tying sacrifice fly.
The Reds took their second lead when Wladimir Balentien scored on Lehr's suicide-squeeze bunt in the fourth, but Geoff Blum and Keppinger came up with consecutive homers in the fifth. Blum's was his 10th of the season and first in 60 at-bats since Aug. 16.
"I have been lifting weights," Keppinger said. "I've had a lot of time to do it. Hitting five home runs doesn't mean much when you lose. This is a good park to hit home runs in. The ball carries and it plays small."
The Astros hit five homers on April 8, against the Cubs.
Lehr tied a club record by allowing the five home runs. He gave up 11 hits and five runs with one walk and six strikeouts.
"Those balls were up and out over the plate," Baker said. "I don't think I've seen a team give up five solo homers and end up winning the game."
Houston manager Cecil Cooper was just as surprised.
"It's been a strange year," Cooper said. "Other than the five solo home runs, we didn't put a whole lot together. Not a lot is going right for us now."
RHP Roy Oswalt's back problems will shut him down for the rest of the season, Houston GM Ed Wade said before Wednesday's game. ... RHP Jose Valverde is expected to meet the Astros in Milwaukee after being left behind in Houston with a high fever and sore throat. ... Reds RHP Johnny Cueto will most likely miss his scheduled start Thursday against Florida after being sent home before Wednesday's game with flu-like symptoms. Cueto wasn't available for the team photo, which was shot Wednesday. LHP Matt Maloney is scheduled to start for Cueto.