The Cincinnati Reds have won six straight four times this season, but they've yet to push any run to seven. Sending Homer Bailey to the mound against the team with the worst record in the majors could finally help them get over that hump.
Riding a career-best four-start winning streak, Bailey attempts to win five consecutive decisions for the first time Wednesday night when he faces a Houston Astros team he has dominated throughout his time in the big leagues.
The visiting Reds (57-40) have taken the first two matchups in this three-game series, scoring three times in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's 4-2 victory to extend their win streak to six.
Cincinnati also won six in a row May 19-24, June 12-17 and July 6-15, but it hasn't had a seven-game run since Aug. 13-20, 2010.
Bailey (9-6, 3.74 ERA) seems to give the Reds, who have won 13 of 15, an excellent opportunity to match that streak.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his last four starts, and his career numbers against the Astros (34-64) are quite similar. He is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five outings, going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid Park.
Bailey pitched eight innings for the third time in his last four starts Friday, allowing one run and six hits with a career high-tying 10 strikeouts in a 3-1 home win over Milwaukee.
"He works at it," manager Dusty Baker said. "He wants to be great."
Bailey went 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five June outings.
"I've kind of established a little bit of a routine," said Bailey, who has posted a 2.13 ERA while winning his last five road starts. "I'm getting better at knowing what I need to do to prepare every day and now it's just leading to success."
Bailey will be opposed by Bud Norris (5-8, 5.33), who has lost seven straight starts. He allowed nine runs, six hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 13-8 defeat at Arizona on Friday.
"I don't know what to say," said Norris, who is 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA in four outings against Cincinnati. "It wasn't pretty. I am out there grinding, battling and trying to make pitches. I didn't miss many barrels today."
Norris' last five starts have been on the road, and a return to Minute Maid Park may be what he needs to end his skid. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in six starts at home compared to 2-7 with a 7.46 ERA in 11 road outings.
Houston will be hoping for another solid home start from Norris as it tries to avoid a season high-tying ninth straight loss. The Astros have dropped 21 of 23, and they made their third significant trade in five days Tuesday night, sending pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh for three minor leaguers.
Rodriguez was the only player remaining from the Astros' 2005 trip to the World Series.
"We look forward and look to the future and want to do everything we can to improve this ballclub at all levels," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "... It's been rough for the past couple of years and we're doing everything we can to hurry it up so we can get back to those types of years."
Cincinnati, which has won six of eight in the season series, hasn't swept a three-game set from the Astros since April 2010.
|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) -- Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker wasn't ready to rave about his team after the Reds captured a season-high seventh straight victory on Wednesday night.
Still, he's happy with the way the NL Central leaders have been pulling out wins lately.
Drew Stubbs delivered another huge hit in the ninth inning, launching a two-out, two-run double that rallied the Reds past Houston 5-3.
"Well, we haven't been really playing that well," Baker said. "We've been playing well enough to win, which is what we're here for. We've been getting some clutch hits, some very good pitching and that's what it starts with is the pitching ... we've put together some good streaks and that's why we are where we are."
Stubbs came through with the Reds trailing 3-2. A night earlier, he hit a two-run homer in the ninth that wiped out the Astros' one-run lead.
Both of Stubbs' hits came against former teammate Francisco Cordero (3-7).
"That was a huge, clutch hit," Baker said of Wednesday's double. "That was probably even bigger than last night's."
The Reds sent Houston to its ninth loss in a row, tying a season worst.
Houston scored three times in the eighth to take the lead. But pinch hitter Xavier Paul opened the Cincinnati ninth with a double off Cordero and pinch hitter Brandon Phillips drew a one-out walk.
Stubbs' double pinged low on the wall in center field to allow Paul and Phillips to score.
"I actually hit that one a lot better than I hit the one last night," Stubbs said. "Luckily we were able to hang on there at the end."
Jay Bruce added an insurance run with an RBI single later in the ninth.
Sean Marshall (3-3) got the last out in the eighth for the win and closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth for his 19th save.
Cordero has blown both of his save opportunities since joining the Astros in a trade from Toronto on Friday.
The Astros trailed 2-0 entering the eighth before Jose Altuve doubled off Logan Ondrusek . Scott Moore and J.D. Martinez hit RBI doubles and two errors put Houston ahead.
Reds starter Homer Bailey scattered four hits with seven strikeouts over seven scoreless innings.
Stubbs, who had seven hits and five RBIs in this series, likes the way the Reds are playing right now.
"It just feels like everything is clicking for us," he said. "If we get down we come back ... and I think that's just the combination of us playing good baseball, getting some lucky bounces and that's the formula to winning a championship. I'm not saying at this point it's going to happen, but that's the type of stuff it takes to do it."
The Astros had plenty of opportunities to put more runs on the board, but went 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.
"That was our Achilles' heel today," Houston manager Brad Mills said.
Astros starter Bud Norris yielded five hits and a run with seven strikeouts in seven innings. He hasn't won since May 21.
Scott Rolen 's RBI single pushed Cincinnati's lead to 2-0 in the eighth.
Devin Mesoraco singled to start the third, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Bailey and scored on Stubbs' two-out double.
The Reds turned a double play to end the third inning before Bailey retired six of the next seven batters.
Brian Bogusevic singled with one out in the Houston seventh and Carlos Corporan drew a walk. Then with a group of his friends and relatives chanting, "Homer, Homer," Bailey retired the next two Astros to preserve the lead and end his night.
NOTES: Baker kept 2B Phillips out of the starting lineup for rest, then used him in the ninth. ... The Astros recalled reliever Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. ... Baker said that star first baseman Joey Votto , on the disabled list after arthroscopic knee surgery, is progressing well but that he doesn't have an official timetable for his return. ... The Reds have a day off on Thursday before opening a three-game series at Colorado on Friday. ... Rookie Dallas Keuchel pitches for Houston on Thursday when the Astros open a four-game series with A.J. Burnett and the Pittsburgh Pirates .