Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) – Jay Bruce’s homer off Tim Byrdak in the bottom of the ninth inning propelled the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros and their first National League Central title since 1995.
The Reds came into Tuesday’s play needing a win or Cardinals loss to clinch their first playoff berth since ’95.
Bruce stepped to the plate with the game tied at two, and he smacked a Byrdak (2-2) fastball over the wall in center to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips each had an RBI for the Reds, who had clinched at least a share of the division title with Sunday’s win over the Padres. Tuesday’s win officially eliminated St. Louis from postseason contention.
Edinson Volquez went six innings in the start for Cincinnati, allowing two runs on seven hits. He also struck out eight and walked one. Aroldis Chapman (2-2) tossed a perfect top of the ninth to pick up the win.
Wandy Rodriguez and Jason Castro each drove in a run for the Astros, who have lost three in a row and six of seven. Rodriguez was solid in six frames on the mound, giving up two runs on four hits.
The Reds got on the board in the first inning. Drew Stubbs and Orlando Cabrera walked to begin the frame. Joey Votto grounded into a double play, which moved Stubbs to third. Rolen then hit a grounder down the third base line that scored Stubbs. Chris Johnson’s throwing error allowed Rolen to get to second on the play. Jonny Gomes grounded out.
Houston responded with two runs in the second to take the lead. Johnson and Brett Wallace singled to get things started. Angel Sanchez then hit a grounder to Volquez, who went to third for the force out. Castro knocked in Wallace with a single to left. Rodriguez helped his own cause with a squeeze bunt that plated Sanchez for a 2-1 lead.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth. Cabrera singled, Votto singled, and Rolen walked. Gomes fouled out for the first out. Phillips plated the tying run when he reached base on an infield single to short. Bruce grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Reds nearly took the lead with two outs in the seventh. Stubbs stepped to the plate and drove the ball to deep left field. The ball hit off the wall and just below the yellow line for a double. Cabrera, though, popped out to end the threat.
The Reds lead the season series with the Astros, 9-4…Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker won his fourth division championship (1997 Giants, 2000 Giants, 2003 Cubs)…Rodriguez fanned eight batters and walked four.