Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Angel Sanchez's two-RBI single in the seventh brought in the go-ahead runs and saved some face for Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez, as Houston defeated Cincinnati, 5-3, to kick off a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros victimized Reds rookie flamethrower Aroldis Chapman (1-1) for his first earned runs of the season in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. Chapman, who had a 0.00 ERA in eight appearances entering Friday, loaded the bases with nobody out and Sanchez sent a base hit into center field.
Carlos Lee had tied the game with a solo home run in the home sixth after Jonny Gomes got the Reds on the board in the top half of the frame with a three-run blast.
Cincinnati entered the sixth without a hit against Rodriguez, who received a third consecutive no-decision despite his best efforts.
Joey Votto doubled to break up the no-hit bid leading off the frame, while Rodriguez ended up allowing three hits and the three runs. He walked six and struck out 10 -- both season highs. The streaky southpaw had 10 strikeouts his last time out and has done so four times this season.
Jeff Fulchino (2-0) wound up with the win despite facing one batter. Brandon Lyon came on in the ninth to notch his 17th save and Michael Bourn contributed three hits and an RBI to Houston's seventh win in 10 games.
"It was a big inning for us. We never gave up. That has been key for us," Sanchez said of the Astros' continued second-half surge.
The Reds, meanwhile, saw their lead atop the NL Central cut to six games over St. Louis, which throttled the visiting Padres Friday. It was Cincy's fourth loss in six games.
Houston got the early jump with Chris Johnson's sacrifice fly in the first and Bourn's two-out RBI single an inning later staking Rodriguez to an early lead.
Rodriguez actually walked the bases full of Reds in the third but recovered to strike out Scott Rolen and got Gomes to pop up to first to end the inning.
That began a streak of eight straight batters retired by the lefty until Votto's two-bagger. Rolen then walked in front of Gomes' home run, giving Cincinnati a brief 3-2 lead.
"That's a scrappy little team they've put together over there. I've been in that role before where you're playing spoiler role," said Gomes of Houston. "You want to finish strong, that's how those guys play over there."
Drew Stubbs tried to keep things going with a one-out single, but Rodriguez finished his outing in style with back-to-back strikeouts of Willie Bloomquist and Red starter Johnny Cueto.
Cueto went six innings and left with the game tied after Lee's sixth-inning homer. The right-hander was touched for five hits, walked one and fanned six.
After Chapman gave up the lead, Nick Masset limited the damage by retiring the next three batters.
However, the Astros' bullpen posted zeros the rest of the way. Fulchino was able to strand a runner at third in the seventh, Matt Lindstrom left runners at the corners in the eighth and Lyon hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to close it out.
Rodriguez held the Reds to just one hit and two walks over seven scoreless innings on July 25, striking out seven in the win. He has won five of his last six decisions. The six walks also tied a career high...The last Astros pitcher to log back-to-back 10-strikeout games was Randy Johnson, who did it in five consecutive starts in 1998...Sanchez has a career-high 10-game hitting streak...Cincinnati is 7-3 versus Houston this year with five wins in seven meetings at Minute Maid Park...Gomes hit his 17th home run of the season and now has 83 runs batted in on the year. His previous career high was 59 in 2006 while with the Rays...The Astros set a club record with their 17th consecutive game without a loss from one of the team's starting pitchers. They went 16 such games in 1994.