HOUSTON - MAY 11: Brian Bogusevic #19 of the Houston Astros receives a high five from Matt Downs #16 after scoring in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park on May 11, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Walk-Off Double By Pence, Number Of Other Walks, Help Astros Snap Four Game Losing Streak

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Astros-Reds series from May 9th-May 11th

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10 Total Updates since May 9, 2011
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Jeff Keppinger To Start Rehab Assignment Today, Jason Michaels Could Return Friday

The Astros will begin receiving reinforcements on Friday, as the Associated Press reports that outfielder Jason Michaels could be activated from the disabled list to play against the Mets. Michaels’ return would likely push Joe Inglett back off the roster, as the Astros are currently playing with only four outfielders.

The more interesting debate coming up will be the return of Jeff Keppinger. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart goes as far as to speculate that Keppinger could force Bill Hall out of a starting job, just a month into the season:

It’s no secret Bill Hall has struggled, so perhaps they slid Hall back into a utility role and give Keppinger consistent at-batsat second base. Perhaps they part ways with Hall, even though that would cost them a few million dollars. But there’s no doubt Keppinger’s ability to put the ball in play is something the Astros can certainly use.

I was never in favor of signing Hall given the alternative of letting the three million go to use on a longer-term proposition, like signing some highly regarded draft picks or something along those lines. But wow, to cut him after just one month? I know he’s been bad, but the season has barely started yet, and the Astros aren’t going anywhere anyway. Why not see if he can re-establish some value? You’re going to be paying him either way.

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Astros Walk-A-Thon Ends In Walk-Off Double

The Astros snapped a four game losing streak with the help of nine walks from Reds pitchers and a walk-off double by Hunter Pence in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Wandy Rodriguez threw seven quality innings, but surrendered an early 3-0 lead by allowing back-to-back homers to Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs in the seventh inning. Mark Melancon worked a scoreless ninth and was credited with the win after Pence’s double scored J.R. Towles, who drew a one-out walk off losing pitcher Mike Leake.

The Astros started the scoring off with a two-run single by Michael Bourn in the second. A sacrifice fly scored the other run, as Matt Downs was able to get Brett Wallace home from third. Edinson Volquez walked five in four innings, and was in line for the loss before Rodriguez allowed the two homers.

Houston will have an off-day on Thursday before the Mets come to town on Friday. The Mets are one of the two teams the Astros have a series win against this season.

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Astros Try To Avoid Sweep, Five Game Losing Streak

(Sports Network) – Right-hander Edinson Volquez aims to continue the momentum today when the red-hot Cincinnati Reds go for the sweep in the finale of a three-game midweek series with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

The Reds won game two of the set on Tuesday and their sixth in seven overall when Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer to highlight a four-run first inning of a 7-3 win triumph.

Joey Votto had three hits, including run-scoring doubles in the first two innings, and knocked in a total of three for the Reds, who’ve climbed from a brief dip below .500 to within one game of front-running St. Louis in the National League Central.

Homer Bailey (2-0) threw seven scoreless innings, giving up just five hits while striking out five and walking none. He has won his first two starts of the season — both against Houston — since coming off the disabled list last week following a shoulder injury.

Houston starter Brett Myers (1-3) gave up six runs in the first two innings and took the loss. He surrendered 10 hits, four walks and struck out eight in six innings.

Hunter Pence hit a two-run single for the Astros, who have lost four in a row and six of their last seven. Pence extended his hitting streak to a National League-leading 14 games.

The Reds have taken six of eight from the Astros so far this season and have won 13 of the past 18 played at Minute Maid Park.

Volquez, a 27-year-old Dominican, is 1-0 against the hosts this season and 5-0 over six starts in his career while posting a 2.09 earned run average and allowing 29 hits with 43 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings.

He surrendered five hits and four runs over five innings in an April 6 matchup in Cincinnati, registering his first win of the season with a 12-4 verdict.

He’s won two of three decisions over six starts since, including a 5-4 defeat of the Chicago Cubs in his most recent outing on May 6 at Wrigley Field.

Volquez, limited by injuries to just 21 combined starts in 2009-10, is 2-1 on the road this season with a 4.32 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.

For Houston, southpaw Wandy Rodriguez makes his eighth start of the season with a chance to win two straight for the first time.

The 31-year-old scattered five hits and allowed two runs in seven innings of a May 6 start at Pittsburgh, defeating the Pirates, 3-2, and lowering his season ERA to an even 4.00.

Rodriguez started the season with two losses in three starts, then beat the New York Mets, lost at Milwaukee, got a no-decision against the Brewers and beat the Pirates.

He is 7-7 in 20 career outings against the Reds with a 4.07 ERA.

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Reds Beat Up On Astros Again, Send Them To MLB Worst 13-23

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer to highlight a four-run first inning and the Cincinnati Reds banged out 15 hits to back another good start by Homer Bailey, coasting to a 7-3 win over Houston.

Joey Votto had three hits, including run-scoring doubles in the first two innings, and knocked in a total of three for the Reds, who have won the first two games of this three-game series and six of their last seven overall.

Bailey (2-0) threw seven scoreless innings, giving up just five hits while striking out five and walking none. He has won his first two starts of the season since coming off the disabled list last week following a shoulder injury.

Astros starter Brett Myers (1-3) gave up six runs in the first two innings and took the loss. He surrendered 10 hits, four walks and struck out eight in six innings.

Hunter Pence hit a two-run single for the Astros, who have lost four in a row and six of their last seven. Pence extended his hitting streak to a National League-leading 14 games.

Myers walked the first two batters of the game — Drew Stubbs and Edgar Renteria both worked seven-pitch at bats — and Votto roped an RBI double into the right field corner to make it 1-0.

Renteria scored on Brandon Phillips’ ground out, but Bruce delivered the big blow in Cincinnati’s big first with a two-run shot into the second deck in right field.

The Reds tacked on two more runs against Myers in the second when Bailey and Stubbs led of with back-to-back singles, then came home on Votto’s double to make it 6-0.

Myers threw 113 pitches in his six innings, but settled down after facing 15 batters in the first two frames. He allowed just five baserunners over the next four innings.

“It just appeared to me that he wasn’t able to get a good feel for his pitches and they were able to get some good swings,” Astros manager Brad Mills said of Myers, who hasn’t won in five starts. “But to come back and pitch six innings, that’s the type of comopetitor he is.”

Cincinnati pushed its lead to 7-0 against the Astros bullpen, but could have gotten more after loading the bases with no outs in the seventh.

Sergio Escalona walked Bruce and Jonny Gomes singled off Enerio Del Rosario, who then hit Miguel Cairo on the left elbow to fill the bases. Ryan Hanigan followed with an RBI single, but Del Rosario got two strikeouts and a force out to end the inning.

The Astros didn’t score until Bailey came out, plating three runs against a shaky Cincinnati bullpen in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter, then walked Angel Sanchez to force in a run. Nick Masset came on and surrendered a two-run single to Pence.

Game Notes

Myers matched a season-high in strikeouts. He has pitched at least six innings in 39 of his 41 starts for the Astros in the last two seasons…Bill Bray got the final two outs for Cincinnati in the ninth inning and has shutout opponents in 18 of his last 19 appearances…The Reds have taken six of eight games against Houston this season.

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Bailey And Myers Duel Again As Astros Try To End Three Game Losing Streak

(Sports Network) – Texas native Homer Bailey looks for a second straight successful post-DL start tonight when the Cincinnati Reds visit Minute Maid Park for the second of three games with the host Houston Astros.

Bailey, a first-round pick (seventh overall) out of LaGrange, Texas, was on the shelf for the season’s first month with shoulder trouble before making his 2011 debut against the Astros on May 5.

He lasted six full innings in the start, scattering four hits and allowing a single run with a walk and seven strikeouts in the Reds’ 10-4 victory in Cincinnati.

In two career starts against Houston, the now 25-year-old — his birthday was May 3 — has allowed just three earned runs and seven hits in 11 2/3 innings, allowing a .163 opponent batting average.

Bailey won a career-best eight games in 20 starts in 2009, then was hampered by injuries and limited to only four wins in 19 starts last season.

The Astros go with right-handed workhorse Brett Myers, who was on the short end of the May 5 encounter with Bailey and the Reds.

Myers, who pitched at least six innings in 32 of 33 starts with Houston last season, was held to less than that threshold for the first time in 2011 when he gave up nine hits and six runs over 5 2/3 against Cincinnati.

The 30-year-old is without a victory in four starts since April 12, when he allowed eight hits and a run in seven innings of an 11-2 defeat of the Chicago Cubs.

Myers is 3-4 lifetime against the Reds with a 4.46 earned run average in 70 2/3 innings.

In Monday’s opener, Travis Wood threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and belted a three-run homer to lead the Reds to a 6-1 victory.

Wood (2-3) allowed six hits and just one walk while striking out six.

Ramon Hernandez added a two-run home run for the Reds, who have won five of their last six.

Aneury Rodriguez (0-1), making just his second major league start, suffered the loss after allowing five runs and eight hits over five innings.

Hunter Pence hit his fifth homer of the season to account for the Astros’ only run. They have lost three straight and five of six.

The Reds have taken five of seven from the Astros so far this season and have won 12 of the past 17 played at Minute Maid Park.

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Astros Sign Ex-Ranger Max Ramirez

Once a part of a fabled group of prospect catchers for the Texas Rangers, Max Ramirez struggled with injuries and weight problems over the past few years. After Carlos Corporan went down with a broken finger, the Astros decided to give Ramirez another chance, signing the catcher to a minor league contract.

Per Astros director of player development Fred Nelson, Ramirez will report to Oklahoma to replace Corporan.

“With Corporan being on the DL, we thought he’d be a good sign,” Nelson said. “If anything should happen in the big leagues, we want to see if he’s a candidate or not.”

Ramirez, still just 26, hit .217/.341/.348 for the Rangers last season. He has struggled in the power department since being promoted to AAA, but managed to hit .286/.373/.381 for the RedHawks last season, when they were still under Rangers control. Ramirez will likely not impact the Astros plans much either way, but it’s not like the Astros have a deep group at catcher. Not a bad depth signing considering the circumstances.

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Keppinger Could Begin Rehab Assignment Soon

Infielder Jeff Keppinger, who was the Astros second baseman for most of last season, is likely to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment in the near future. Manager Brad Mills said that if everything goes right, Keppinger could begin his rehab on Thursday:

“We’re going to see how he is today and tomorrow and go from there,” Mills said. “If there’s no soreness and he feels OK, he could start as early as maybe Thursday.”

It’s not likely that Keppinger will be an Astro very long. The team unsuccessfully tried to deal him in the offseason before news of his toe injury came to light. Bill Hall has been a disaster so far for the Astros, but between Matt Downs, Angel Sanchez, Hall, and Clint Barmes, there won’t be many at-bats to go around for Keppinger.

Instead, look for the Astros to give him a few appearances to prove he’s healthy, and then watch as he winds up on a new team.

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Nelson Figueroa Designated For Assignment, Sergio Escalona Called Up To Astros

In news first broken by MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, the Astros have designated starter-then-reliever Nelson Figueroa for assignment. The team will have a few days to convince Figueroa to accept a minor league assignment or have him become a free agent.

Figueroa had been an abomination in the rotation and hadn’t solved anything in the bullpen either. His two innings tonight, where he allowed three hits and one earned run, lowered his season ERA to 8.69. It’s very unlikely he’ll be claimed as a free agent, so this looks to be a rather low-risk move.

Escalona, who was acquired in a very curious minor league trade before the season for second base prospect Albert Cartwright, has put together a 3.6 ERA for the Oklahoma City RedHawks in 15 innings, striking out 16 and walking five, though he has allowed 13 hits. Cartwright has not played yet this season for the Phillies. Escalona will probably get a crack at the lefty specialist role early and often given Fernando Abad’s recent struggles.

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Travis Wood Dominates Astros On Mound And At Plate In 6-1 Reds Triumph

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Travis Wood threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and belted a three-run homer to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros in the first of a three-game series from Minute Maid Park.

Wood (2-3) allowed six hits and just one walk while striking out six.

Ramon Hernandez added a two-run home run for the Reds, who have won five of their last six.

Aneury Rodriguez (0-1), making just his second major league start, suffered the loss after allowing five runs and eight hits over five innings.

Hunter Pence hit his fifth homer of the season to account for the Astros’ only run. They have lost three straight and five of six.


The Astros will try to pick up the pieces tomorrow against the Reds and end a three game losing streak. Homer Bailey (1-0, 1.50) will oppose Brett Myers (1-2, 4.47) for the second time in a row.

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Aneury Rodriguez Hopes For Similar Results Against Reds

(Sports Network) - Astros manager Brad Mills came away very pleased with Aneury Rodriguez's first major league start last week. The 23-year-old gets another chance to impress his coach this evening against the club he baffled five days ago as Houston kicks off a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park.

The decision to shift Rodriguez into the rotation last Wednesday in place of Nelson Figueroa looked like a genius move after the right-hander held the Reds to just a single hit -- a one-out triple by Chris Valaika in the third inning -- and one walk in five innings of a no-decision.

Rodriguez, a 2010 Rule 5 selection from the Rays, had made just nine relief appearances before the start and the rookie sports a 4.15 earned run average this year without a decision.

"You couldn't ask for any more the way he threw the ball," Mills said about Rodriguez. "I know he was pumped and he was excited about getting out there and getting his first major league start, and he took it and ran with it. He did a great job."

Reds starter Travis Wood got a first-hand look at Rodriguez as he started opposite the Dominican hurler in Cincinnati's 3-2 win. Wood also got a no- decision after his club rallied late as he allowed two runs on five hits and four walks over six innings while matching a season high with seven strikeouts.

The 24-year-old southpaw hasn't won since his season debut on April 2, going 0-3 in six starts since. He has allowed 19 runs in just 11 2/3 innings of the three setbacks while being charged only with six runs over 19 innings in the three no-decisions.

Wood, 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA on the season, is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in three career starts versus the Astros.

Wood toes the rubber one day after Johnny Cueto made a solid 2011 debut, tossing six-plus scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory after starting the season on the disabled list due to irritation in his right biceps/triceps.

"It might have been one of the best I've ever seen him throw, to be honest with you," the Reds' Joey Votto said of Cueto, who won a career-best 12 games last year.

"He looked fantastic. He threw his breaking ball really well. It seemed like they were off balance the entire game. I'm really glad he came back after missing some time and threw so well today."

Drew Stubbs hit a solo homer and Ramon Hernandez knocked in the other run for the Reds, who have won four of five, a span that began with consecutive wins over the Astros on May 4-5. Votto, though, went 0-for-4 to see his streak of reaching base safely in all 33 games this season come to an end. He fell one game shy of Dave Collins' club record to start the 1981 season.

Votto will try to bounce back against an Astros club that has lost four of its last five. Houston rallied past Pittsburgh on Sunday, erasing a two-run deficit with a three-run seventh inning that was sparked by Chris Johnson's solo homer before adding another run in the top of the eighth inning when Brett Wallace's sacrifice fly brought home Carlos Lee.

However, Fernando Abad served up a go-ahead, three-run homer to Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit in the bottom of the eighth inning on the way to a 5-4 setback.

"We're playing well right now. We just got to figure out a way to make sure that we get these wins in these close ball games. We're playing a lot of close ball games," Johnson said of their recent struggles.

Houston's Hunter Pence did extend his hitting streak to 12 straight games in the loss, batting .340 (17-for-50) over the run with a homer and 10 RBI. He is 4-for-9 versus Wood lifetime with a home run and four RBI.

The Reds have already taken four of six from the Astros so far this season, but the clubs are meeting for the first time in Houston this week. Cincinnati has won 11 of the past 16 played at Minute Maid Park.

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