Brandon Phillips is a big reason why.
Cincinnati tries to extend its winning streak to a season best-tying six for the fourth time this year Tuesday night in the second of three with the major league-worst Houston Astros .
The NL Central-leading Reds (56-40) lost Votto to a knee injury just over a week ago but haven't missed a beat. Cincinnati has won 12 of 14 despite playing its last eight games without the 2010 NL MVP.
The Reds have proven plenty potent during their five-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 26-13 while batting .290 - including .350 (14 for 40) with runners in scoring position.
Much of that can be attributed to Phillips. The two-time All-Star is batting .429 with two homers, 11 runs scored and 11 RBIs in his last 12 games. He's spent the last seven hitting third in the lineup - Votto's usual spot.
"We got some big hits tonight," manager Dusty Baker said. "(The Astros') record isn't good right now but they never quit."
Houston (34-63) has dropped seven in a row by a 58-22 margin and 20 of 22 overall. The Astros have compiled an 8.37 ERA during their losing streak.
Batting .469 in his last 10 games versus Cincinnati, Chris Johnson matched a career best with four hits Monday.
"We're trying not to believe in personal goals around here and just trying to turn this thing around, so I'd rather take an 0-for for a win," he said.
While little has gone the Astros' way, Lucas Harrell (7-7, 4.24 ERA) has proven to be a rare bright spot. The right-hander has allowed one or zero runs in four of his last five outings, over which he's gone 1-2 despite a 2.18 ERA.
Harrell suffered a hard-luck loss Thursday, allowing four hits and striking out six over seven innings in a 1-0 loss at San Diego.
"Lucas was absolutely outstanding," manager Brad Mills told the team's official website. " ... What a great job he did. He's been doing a good job for us all year and he continues to do a good job."
Harrell has been especially good at home, going 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA over seven starts while holding opponents to a .222 average. In his last start at Minute Maid Park, Harrell threw a six-hitter in a 1-0 victory over San Diego on June 27 for his first shutout and complete game.
Harrell, though, was knocked around in his only career start against the Reds, yielding six runs and nine hits over six innings in a 6-0 road loss April 28.
Cincinnati counters with Mike Leake (3-6, 4.25), who was tagged for a season worst-tying six runs over 5 1-3 innings Thursday but didn't factor in the decision of a 7-6 victory over Arizona. Leake's 11 hits allowed matched a career high.
While Leake has run into some trouble at home, he's recently pitched well on the road. The right-hander has gone 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA over his last four starts in opposing ballparks - including a 4-1 victory at Houston on June 1 in which he allowed one run and struck out a season-high seven in seven innings.
Leake is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA over three career road starts against the Astros.
The Reds won six straight May 19-24, June 12-17 and July 6-15.
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||15-Day DL||Torn meniscus, left knee|
|June 30, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee inflammation|
|June 28, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Head|
|June 12, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|July 15, 2012||Jed Lowrie||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|July 14, 2012||Jed Lowrie||Day-to-Day||Right ankle|
|July 08, 2012||Jason Castro||15-Day DL||Fluid in right knee|
|June 26, 2012||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in left ankle|
|June 26, 2012||Justin Maxwell||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in left ankle|
|June 24, 2012||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
HOUSTON (AP) -- Drew Stubbs isn't where he wants to be despite returning from the disabled list almost a month ago.
The Cincinnati center fielder hopes Tuesday night's performance is an indication that things are starting to come together for him.
Stubbs hit a go-ahead homer and the Reds rallied for three runs in the ninth inning against former teammate Francisco Cordero , beating the Houston Astros 4-2 and tying their longest winning streak of the year at six.
The NL Central-leading Reds sent Houston to its eighth straight loss.
Stubbs has struggled to get going since a stint on the disabled list in June with a strained left oblique.
"It's a process," he said. "It's not an overnight thing. I think you have to string together a few weeks of that to really get to feeling good and this is a start. Hopefully, I can climb back to where I need to be."
Cordero got his first save chance since being acquired in a trade with Toronto last week. Stubbs hit a two-run homer for a 3-2 lead and Xavier Paul added an RBI single.
The Reds are relying on a handful of players to step up and pick up the slack while star Joey Votto is out for a month recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker believes Stubbs can be someone to help fill the void.
"I see the ability there," Baker said. "He wasn't a No. 1 draft choice for nothing. It frustrates him, for sure, quite often. It frustrates us, too, because we know it's there. Boy, I would just love to see him get going. It would make it a lot easier."
During the game, the last-place Astros announced they had traded pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh.
Justin Maxwell 's two-run homer in the fourth gave Houston a 2-0 lead. Brandon Phillips doubled and scored on Paul's single in the Cincinnati sixth.
Zack Cozart singled with one out in the Reds ninth and Stubbs hit his 10th home run. Jay Bruce drew a two-out walk, moved up on a wild pitch and after Scott Rolen walked, Paul singled.
Houston fans weren't impressed with their first look at Cordero (3-6), who received a loud chorus of boos from the paltry crowd. Cordero played for the Reds from 2008 until last year, when he finished with 37 saves.
Astros rookie Lucas Harrell allowed seven hits and a run in seven innings.
"It was tough, not because I'm facing my former team, but because Lucas threw an unbelievable game and I had a chance to get a save and get us a W, but I didn't," Cordero said. "I made a mistake, Drew Stubbs hit it out and they won."
Stubbs thinks Cincinnati's familiarity with Cordero may have helped on Tuesday night.
"Playing with him for 2 1/2 years, you stand behind him and watch him pitch a lot," Stubbs said. "Obviously, we have the scouting reports, but it helps whenever you play behind a guy for a few years."
Paul finished with three hits.
Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman allowed a hit in a scoreless ninth for his 18th save.
Reds starter Mike Leake (4-6) scattered seven hits with two runs over eight innings for his first win since his pitched a complete game on June 29.
"That is a great comeback though because Harrell threw the ball great," Baker said. "Leake threw the ball great. He made one mistake. He hung the breaking ball to Maxwell. Other than that, he was masterful. We tried to stay with him as long as we could ... he was saving my bullpen. We tried to get him the victory. Every once in a while, you try to do the right thing and it works."
The day marked the end of an era for the Astros, who sent Rodriguez and cash to the Pirates for Triple-A All-Star Rudy Owen and Colton Cain, both left-handers, and outfielder Robbie Grossman.
Rodriguez was the only player on Houston's roster remaining from their 2005 trip to the World Series and the fifth pitcher the rebuilding Astros have traded since Friday.
NOTES: Houston C Jason Castro , on the DL with swelling in his right knee, is improving but isn't quite ready to return to the team. ... Reds starter Mat Latos was OK on Tuesday after spraining his left ankle in the fifth inning of Monday night's win over the Astros.