HOUSTON -- Micah Owings isn't your ordinary starting pitcher. After all, not many love to hit in clutch situations.
Owings hit the first pitch he saw from Geoff Geary into center field, driving in Ramon Hernandez and Alex Gonzalez and giving the Reds a 3-1 lead.
"Anytime I can get in the box, I love it," said Owings, who is scheduled to start Tuesday in Chicago. "I just like the opportunity."
Owings, who won the 2007 NL Silver Slugger award for pitchers, is 2-for-3 as a pinch hitter this season. Geary set up the tiebreaking hit with a throwing error that allowed Jerry Hairston Jr. to score before Owings came to the plate.
"I was just looking for something I could drive," Owings said. "I know there were some other guys in the dugout chomping at the bit to get that chance so I really was glad to have the opportunity."
Manager Dusty Baker wanted to save position players like Darnell McDonald and Paul Janish for later pinch-hit situations.
"So it was a process of elimination to use Micah," Baker said. "But he's a very good option to have. He works at hitting as much as he does pitching. He takes extra BP all the time.
"He can hit and he knows he can hit. He didn't waste any time and that's what you need to do as a pinch hitter."
Geary (0-1) eventually got out of the seventh, but the damage was done. He allowed two runs, one earned.
"There's nothing tough about facing a pitcher in comparison to a hitter," Geary said. "He's a fastball-hitting pitcher. I was given a choice of throwing a fastball or a slider or curveball away.
"I thought well if I can throw a fastball in off the plate the most he could do was roll over it. I watched the video. He opened up his front side, got greedy and hit it off the wall. I won't make that mistake again."
Edinson Volquez (2-1) struck out seven in six innings for Cincinnati, yielding one run and four hits with five walks. Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his fourth save in four tries.
In his first major league game since Sept. 30, 2007, Felipe Paulino pitched six scoreless innings for the Astros.
Paulino was called up from Triple-A Round Rock to start for injured Brian Moehler. After missing all of last season recovering from a pinched nerve in his right arm, Paulino struck out six, allowed three hits and walked two.
"We got a great start from Paulino," manager Cecil Cooper said. "I think he did a terrific job today. He just kind of ran out of pitches a little bit, but I thought he was really overpowering, and he opened a lot of eyes."
Miguel Tejada's RBI single in the third inning gave Houston a 1-0 lead.
Volquez got out of one-out, bases-loaded jams in the third and fifth innings. He struck out Hunter Pence and retired Geoff Blum on a popup to end the third, and got some help with a disputed double play in the fifth.
Blum hit a slow roller to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who tagged Pence and threw to first for the final out of the fifth. Pence said Phillips missed the tag and he and Cooper briefly argued the call with second base umpire Joe West.
McDonald had a pinch-hit triple in the ninth and scored on Willy Taveras' sacrifice fly. Carlos Lee hit a sacrifice fly for Houston in the bottom half.
Tejada has 1,100 career RBI. ... Houston's Kaz Matsui didn't start for the fifth straight game with a sore back. He ran for Blum in the eighth and stayed in the game at second base. ... It was the Reds' 400th win against Houston. Cincinnati has more than 400 wins against seven other teams: the Braves (1,069), Phillies (1,043), Dodgers (995), Cubs (979), Pirates (970), Cardinals (928) and Giants (910). ... Jay Bruce didn't start for the second straight game because of a sore right hand. He ran for Owings in the seventh.