Bruce, Reds beat Astros
HOUSTON (AP) — The Cincinnati Reds have several players on their roster from Texas.
While they all enjoy playing in their home state, none excels here quite like Beaumont native Jay Bruce.
Bruce had a three-run homer and Zack Cozart added a two-run shot to help the Reds beat the Houston Astros 9-3 on Friday night.
“I do, I do,” Bruce said with a smile when asked if he likes playing at Minute Maid Park. “Maybe that I’m close to home, I’m comfortable, I like the park. I can’t really explain it.”
Bruce has two homers and seven RBIs in seven games here this season.
“Most guys perform well at home,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s why I like to play guys at home. They seem to concentrate better at home. Especially us, we have a bunch of guys here from Texas.”
Cozart’s home run gave the Reds an early lead before consecutive homers by Fernando Martinez and Matt Dominguez tied it at 2-all in the fourth inning.
Chris Heisey singled in a run in the fifth to put the Reds on top and Bruce connected for his 28th home run later in the inning to cushion the lead.
It’s the fourth straight win for the NL-Central-leading Reds.
“It’s a good time for us to finish up strong and really go and finish up September and hopefully go into the postseason strong,” Bruce said.
The loss wraps up a dismal August for the last-place Astros, who have dropped six straight and went 5-22 in this month.
Reds starter Mike Leake (7-8) allowed seven hits and struck out six in six innings. He has bounced back for a solid season after starting the year 0-5.
“That’s great. He’s closing on .500 which is a long ways from where he came from,” Baker said. “He didn’t pitch great, but he pitched good enough to win. We were satisfied.”
Brandon Phillips extended his hitting streak to 10 games with three hits and drove in a run for his 71st RBI, which leads all second basemen.
Cozart’s two-run homer in the third inning off Houston starter Fernando Abad (0-2) landed in the back of the Crawford Boxes in left field and put Cincinnati up 2-0.
The Astros evened it up in the fourth on the homers by Martinez and Dominguez which both sailed into the second deck. Dominguez’s homer was his first in the majors.
Cozart got things started in Cincinnati’s big fifth inning with his 32nd double. His performance on Friday night made him the fourth shortstop in franchise history to collect at least 30 doubles and 15 homers in a season, joining Felipe Lopez, Eddie Miller and Barry Larkin — who did it twice.
Heisey followed Cozart’s double with an RBI single to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. He advanced to second on an error by right fielder Jimmy Paredes on the play.
Ryan Ludwick’s one-out single left runners at the corners, and set up Bruce’s three-run homer which pushed the lead to 6-2 and chased Abad.
Abad, a converted reliever, yielded nine hits and walked two in 4 1-3 innings in his second major league start.
“We tried to get him stretched out, but you know it’s about executing pitches,” DeFrancesco said. “I think that’s our biggest problem, our command of the fastball, our breaking ball command.”
Heisey singled and stole second base before a single by Phillips sent Heisey home and left Cincinnati up 7-2.
Leake settled down after the consecutive homers in the fourth inning, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
“They had a good plan against me today,” Leake said. “They made it a little tough on me. I was kind of missing just off and they were being patient.”
He was replaced by Sam LeCure, who retired the side in the seventh.
Brett Wallace doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning for Houston.
Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo had an RBI single in the eighth and Cincinnati added a run in that inning on a force out.
NOTES: Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker didn’t rule out the possibility of Joey Votto rejoining the team this weekend. But Baker said he’d prefer Votto make his return from two surgical procedures on his left knee next week. Votto is currently on a rehabilitation assignment at Class-A Dayton. … Houston traded OF Ben Francisco to Tampa Bay for a player to be named later during the game. … Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez will be out indefinitely after an MRI showed a torn ligament in his left ankle, which he injured in Thursday’s loss to the San Francisco Giants. DeFrancesco said Gonzalez will not require surgery.