|Houston (41-92) «||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||2||4||0|
HOUSTON -- August was the most terrible month in Houston's dreadful season.
Maybe the way the Astros started September is a sign that things will be better this month.
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Pinch-hitter Matt Downs doubled off the left field wall with two outs in the ninth. Sean Marshall (4-5) intentionally walked Matt Dominguez before hitting pinch-hitter Brandon Barnes to load the bases.
Altuve hit the ball directly at Valdez, who was playing second after Brandon Phillips was ejected in the previous inning, and it rolled between his legs -- allowing Downs to trot home and Houston to break a six-game skid. Houston was 5-22 last month.
"This game is about winning baseball games and I'm really excited about what's going to happen here the next month," said interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who won for just the second time since taking over for Brad Mills who was fired Aug. 18.
"We've got a nice group of guys trying to compete. They're trying to establish themselves as major league players. It's going to take a little time here in Houston, a little patience, and I think the reward is going to be seen down the road here."
Wilton Lopez (6-3) got the last two outs in the ninth inning for the win.
Valdez was disappointed he couldn't make the play.
"That is just part of the game; what can you do? I made an error, we lost the game, and I feel mad because we lost the game because I made the error," he said.
Phillips was ejected in the eighth inning after arguing a call. He was tossed after jawing with plate umpire Andy Fletcher on a called third strike on what Phillips thought should have been a check swing.
Phillips protested somewhat calmly for a minute before getting more heated and having to be pulled away by manager Dusty Baker.
"You know, he had a rough night, and there were some questionable calls," Baker said of Phillips. "He came in after the game, and he felt terrible about it. But, these things happen. You don't like them, but they happen. These games are emotional, and we just have to put this one behind us."
He was gone from the clubhouse by the time reporters were allowed in after the game, but tweeted an apology.
It started with a hashtag with the phrase "realtalk" and ended with a hashtag followed by "human."
"Apologize to my fans, team, [and] also the umpires for actions tonight," he tweeted. "Not like me, but that's how I felt at the time!!!!"
Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs hit consecutive singles to get things going for the Reds in the first inning. Phillips grounded into a forceout that left Stubbs out at second and the Reds went up 1-0 on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Ludwick.
The Astros mustered only three hits against Reds starter Homer Bailey, who entered the game 2-0 in three starts against Houston. Unfortunately for Bailey and the Reds, one of those knocks was a solo homer by Justin Maxwell which tied it in the fourth inning.
The homer continued a streak of hot hitting for Maxwell in games where rookie Lucas Harrell is the starter. Maxwell has 13 homers this season and seven have come when Harrell is on the mound.
Bailey was one strikeout shy of his career high by fanning nine Astros with one walk in eight innings.
Fernando Martinez singled with one out in the second inning. Bailey retired seven straight after that before Maxwell's shot to right field tied it at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
He hit Martinez after Maxwell's homer before getting back on track and sitting down the next 10 straight, including striking out the side in the seventh.
Harrell pitched seven solid innings, yielding seven hits and one run with three strikeouts. He was lifted for Hector Ambriz in the eighth inning and he retired the side.
"I felt comfortable throwing my sinker in today and a few times away and I got a lot of ground balls and that was kind of the plan. We wanted to conserve pitches today and get a lot of ground balls."
DeFrancesco was happy with the performance he got from his bench.
"The bench was alive," he said. "We used mostly the whole bench today, pinch-hitting, double-switching, it was a true team effort. That's what we're trying to establish in that locker room. It's about the team and not about individuals. Hopefully we can change this thing around."
|The Astros' Matt Downs hits a pinch-hit double in the ninth inning and then comes around to score the winning run on an error. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Zack Cozart, SS||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.247|
|Drew Stubbs, CF||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.221|
|Brandon Phillips, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||.298|
|Wilson Valdez, 2B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.201|
|Ryan Ludwick, LF||3||0||1||1||0||1||0||.276|
|Jay Bruce, RF||3||0||1||0||1||1||1||.257|
|Todd Frazier, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||1||3||.293|
|Scott Rolen, 3B||3||0||1||0||1||0||2||.251|
|Ryan Hanigan, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.289|
|Homer Bailey, P||3||0||0||0||0||0||2||.123|
|Sean Marshall, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|2B - Jay Bruce (32, Harrell), Scott Rolen (16, Harrell)|
|SF - Ryan Ludwick (2)|
|RBI - Ryan Ludwick (72)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|E - Wilson Valdez (3, Misplayed grounder)|
|Sean Marshall (L,4-5)||0.2||1||1||0||1||1||0||3.02|
|IBB - Dominguez by Sean Marshall|
|HBP - F. Martinez (by Homer Bailey), Barnes (by Sean Marshall)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Homer Bailey 107-66, Sean Marshall 20-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Homer Bailey 7-8, Sean Marshall 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Homer Bailey 29, Sean Marshall 6|
|Jimmy Paredes, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.188|
|Xavier Cedeno, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Wilton Lopez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Tyler Greene, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.223|
|Brett Wallace, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||.281|
|Justin Maxwell, CF-RF||4||1||1||1||0||2||0||.234|
|Fernando Martinez, LF||2||0||1||0||0||1||0||.191|
|a- Matt Downs, PH||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||.213|
|Matt Dominguez, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||2||2||.316|
|Scott Moore, 2B||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.227|
|Jordan Schafer, PR-CF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.216|
|b- Brandon Barnes, PH||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.180|
|Chris Snyder, C||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.191|
|c- Jose Altuve, PH-2B||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.293|
|Lucas Harrell, P||2||0||0||0||0||2||0||.176|
|Hector Ambriz, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|d- Jason Castro, PH-C||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.263|
|a-doubled for F. Martinez in the 9th|
|b-hit by pitch for Schafer in the 9th|
|c-flied out for Snyder in the 8th|
|d-walked for Ambriz in the 8th|
|2B - Matt Downs (4, Marshall)|
|HR - Justin Maxwell (13, Bailey)|
|RBI - Justin Maxwell (38)|
|2-OUT RBI - Justin Maxwell (18)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Moore-Wallace|
|Wilton Lopez (W,6-3)||0.2||0||0||0||1||2||0||2.38|
|Pitches-Strikes - Lucas Harrell 115-70, Hector Ambriz 10-8, Xavier Cedeno 5-3, Wilton Lopez 19-12|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Lucas Harrell 13-4, Hector Ambriz 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Lucas Harrell 28, Hector Ambriz 3, Xavier Cedeno 1, Wilton Lopez 3|
|Attendance - 18316|
|Game Time - 2:57|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Andy Fletcher, First Base - Rob Drake, Second Base - Joe West, Third Base - Sam Holbrook|