(Sports Network) – The Reds refuse to count themselves out in the National League Central race. More games like the one they had on Tuesday and neither will the rest of the division.
Cincinnati goes for a series victory over Houston tonight at Minute Maid Park looking for its eighth victory in 12 meetings with the Astros this season.
Coming off a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champion Giants, the Reds dropped an extra-inning game to the last-place Astros to begin this set, but rebounded with a convincing 5-1 victory last night.
Fresh off one of the worst starts of his career, Homer Bailey limited Houston to a run and five hits over eight innings and Edgar Renteria supplied the big blow in a five-run fifth with a grand slam.
The Reds, who were swept in four games at home by the Mets prior to their series with the Giants, remained 6 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central despite currently being two games under .500.
“I think everybody in this room still believes we have a chance to make the playoffs,” Bailey said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
Wandy Rodriguez lasted five innings for the Astros and gave up all five runs. He did become the franchise’s all-time strikeouts leader by a lefty with 947, but it was a pitch to Renteria that spoiled the milestone.
“Renteria put a good swing on a fastball inside, that’s basically what happened,” Houston catcher Carlos Corporan said.
Luis Durango went 1-for-4 with an RBI for the Astros, who have dropped four of their last five.
Tonight’s finale could feature a long-awaited first victory for either the Reds’ Dontrelle Willis or Astros rookie Jordan Lyles.
Willis will make his fifth start since joining the rotation on July 10. He hasn’t factored into the decision of his last two starts and faced the Giants on Friday. The 29-year-old southpaw gave up two runs on six hits and a pair of walks over six innings, giving him an 0-1 mark and 3.52 earned run average this season.
Willis, who is still looking for his first victory since June 5 of last year, is 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA in seven career starts against the Astros.
Lyles, meanwhile, takes a 12th shot at winning his first game in the majors. The Astros right-hander has gone 0-6 with a 4.41 ERA on the season, but did pitch well enough to win last time out.
Lyles held the Brewers to two runs on six hits over six innings, but the gloom was already in the air as Hunter Pence was traded during the game. Both the runs Lyles allowed came right after Pence was pulled from the game in the fifth inning and Houston ended up getting shut out, 4-0.
“I still had to pitch. The game wasn’t going to stop just because he got traded,” Lyles said on Houston’s website.
The 20-year-old faces the Reds for the first time and is 0-3 with a 4.02 ERA in five games at home this season.
Should Houston fall behind early, it may have a tough time rallying given Aroldis Chapman’s current run out of the bullpen for Cincinnati. The hard- throwing lefty tossed a perfect ninth inning last night and has thrown 9 2/3 consecutive hitless frames. He has walked just one during that stretch, which dates back to July 18.
The Reds are 29-13 in this series since the start of the 2009 season.