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Updated: Wednesday, April 9, 2003 12:18 AM EDT
Cincinnati Reds
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
2 5 1
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
1 7 0
W Dempster (1-0)
L Dotel (0-1)
S Williamson (2)
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HOUSTON (Ticker) -- A pitchers' duel is the last thing one would expect at Minute Maid Park, especially with Ryan Dempster involved.

Jason LaRue belted a solo home run in the 10th inning and Dempster pitched nine strong innings as the Cincinnati Reds posted a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros .

Entering the game 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in the ballpark, Dempster (1-0) bounced back from a shaky first inning to match Astros ace Roy Oswalt the rest of the way. Dempster allowed one run and seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts to become the first Cincinnati starter to post a win.

"I haven't been striking out a lot (of batters), but at the end of the game, I haven't been throwing a lot of pitches," said Dempster, who thew just 97 pitches. "I'm just trying to be real aggressive, get a lot of ground balls, make them hit my pitch and expand the strike zone."

"Ryan's really smoothed it out," Cincinnati manager Bob Boone said. "He's become very pitch efficient. He's a pitcher now. When he came here, he was a thrower with a real good arm. His slider has become a really hard pitch to hit. His changeup is working and he's throwing strikes."

Leading off the 10th, LaRue swatted a 1-1 offering from Octavio Dotel (0-1) over the fence in left field, snapping the Houston reliever's streak of not allowing a homer at 56 innings.

"The guy's a great pitcher," said LaRue, who went 3-for-4. "He just left a mistake pitch over the plate and I was able to hit a home run."

"That's the life of a reliever," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "He threw good, just like (Billy) Wagner did before him. We had the right people out there. They just pitched and executed and won the game."

Scott Williamson retired all three batters he faced to notch his second save.

Oswalt pitched well enough to win, yielding one run and four hits in eight innings with two walks and six strikeouts.

"I was pretty much in sync all night," Oswalt said. "I feel like my curveball's coming around and I have a lot of confidence in it."

In nine career appearances against Cincinnati, Oswalt is 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA.

The game did not start well for Dempster, who allowed a leadoff single by Craig Biggio . Geoff Blum followed with a grounder to second base, but Aaron Boone 's attempt to cut down the lead runner failed.

Jeff Bagwell drew a walk to load the bases, but Dempster escaped the inning with minimal damage by getting Lance Berkman to ground into a double play before retiring Jeff Kent on a foulout.

"To get Berkman in the first with the double play, to get out of the inning with just one run was huge," Dempster said. "Oswalt is one of the best pitchers in the majors, so if they get a bunch of runs in the first, the game's over."

The Reds answered in the second, when Reggie Taylor hit a two-out triple to deep right-center field and scored on LaRue's infield single.

Houston threatened in both the fifth and sixth innings, but Dempster escaped trouble by inducing double plays.

"He did it all spring training for us and his first start in Cincinnati was almost as good as tonight," LaRue said. "Tonight, he started off pretty good and just stayed there. He was throwing his changeup and slider for strikes. We both have a good idea of what to do with the hitters, and Ryan did an excellent job of executing the game plan tonight."

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