HOUSTON -- The Cincinnati Reds came to Houston having scored only nine runs in their previous three games, losing two. They scored that many runs in three innings against the Astros on Friday night on their way to a lopsided victory.
"Our pitchers have been consistent all year, but our hitting hasn't been," Kearns said. "It was definitely nice to get a little cushion."
Lance Berkman and Preston Wilson homered for the Astros, who have lost eight of their last 10 and two straight since Roger Clemens rejoined them on Wednesday.
"These kind of games, you just kind of chalk 'em up to an anomaly," said Berkman, who has 15 homers this season. "There's really nothing you can do. You get down that big that early, it's tough to come back."
Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is working out with the Astros' Class-A affiliate in Lexington, Ky., but dozens of fans in Houston wore Clemens jerseys, wishing he was already here.
Once the game started, they missed him even more.
The first seven Reds reached base against Rodriguez (6-3), who was yanked by manager Phil Garner after just 1 1/3 innings.
The Reds realized quickly that Rodriguez, who started the season 4-0, wasn't throwing his best.
"We were just trying to play ball and look for something to hit," Phillips said. "He was just leaving it out over the plate. He's still a good pitcher."
The Astros trailed 7-0 when the left-handed Rodriguez gave way to right-hander Chris Sampson, who was called up from Triple-A Round Rock earlier Friday.
Sampson gave up a sacrifice fly to Encarnacion in the second and a solo homer to Phillips to open the third.
Sampson, 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 10 starts in the minors this season, pitched 5 1/3 innings in his major league debut. He got a standing ovation when he left in the seventh.
"It was indescribable," Sampson said. "It happened so fast, I really didn't have time to think."
Reds starter Aaron Harang (6-4) came in with an NL-best 1.23 ERA on the road. He allowed two runs and five hits with five strikeouts in six innings, beating Houston for the second time this season.
The Reds had been shut out in his previous two starts, but this time they gave him all the runs he needed.
"We were able to get on their starter early," Harang said. "That's nice, because that meant I could settle down and throw my game. And even if I make a mistake, I know it's not going to hurt me."
Phillips led off the game with a single to right, the first of seven hits off Rodriguez. Phillips stole second and went to third when catcher Eric Munson's throw sailed into center field -- the first of three errors for the Astros in the first two innings.
Felipe Lopez walked before Griffey blooped a single to score Phillips, Griffey's 15th RBI in his last 12 games.
Rich Aurilia doubled and Adam Dunn walked to load the bases. Rodriguez got a full count on Kearns, then walked him to make it 3-0. Encarnacion then ripped a double to the gap in right center, scoring two more.
Reds manager Jerry Narron credited Kearns' walk for keeping the big inning alive.
"That was an outstanding at-bat," Narron said. "He laid off some pitches that were very tough."
Lopez and Griffey started the second inning with singles. Lopez was thrown out stealing, but Rodriguez walked Aurilia and Dunn before Kearns had a two-run single to center.
Garner had finally seen enough, pulling Rodriguez for Sampson.
Sampson got the call from the Astros late Thursday night and immediately called his parents.
"I think they called and woke up all of Houston," Sampson said. "It was great. They were very ecstatic."
Harang, meanwhile, retired the first six Astros before walking Jason Lane to open the third. Lane eventually scored on Willy Taveras' single to center, Houston's first hit. Berkman homered in the fourth, his 12th of the season from the left side.
Wilson added a solo shot in the eighth, a towering blast over the railroad tracks in left field.
Pinch-hitter David Ross hit a three-run homer in the ninth for the Reds.
The Astros, opening a 10-game homestand, have lost five of their last seven at Minute Maid Park. Garner is confident the Astros will reverse their skid in the next week.
"Let's reserve a poor start (to the homestand) for a couple games," he said. "But this was not a very good game, obviously. We didn't play very well."
- The Reds improved to 22-6 when scoring first.
- With lightning in the area, the retractable roof at the ballpark was closed as the Reds batted in the sixth.
- Astros 3B Mike Lamb started in place of Morgan Ensberg, who hadn't missed a start since May 2. Garner said he was just resting Ensberg, who leads the team with 17 homers.