Lyles plays stopper, cools off Reds for Astros

Lyles plays stopper, cools off Reds for Astros

Lyles plays stopper, cools off Reds for Astros
HOUSTON -- Now that Jordan Lyles is going to remain in the Astros starting rotation for the time being, his goal is to find a way to stay there.

Lyles certainly did nothing to hurt his chances of establishing himself in Houston by throwing seven strong innings Sunday afternoon to help the Astros break a season-high eight-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Reds at Minute Maid Park.

Most of the Astros' offensive production came from the bottom of their lineup, with the big blow coming off the bat of Justin Maxwell. His third pinch-hit homer of the season -- a two-run blast in the seventh inning -- gave the Astros their first win since May 25.

"The team's been battling -- eight-game skid or whatever," Maxwell said. "But it feels really good to get back on the winning side of things."

The Astros didn't get a hit from the first three batters in their lineup, though leadoff hitter Jordan Schafer had a sacrifice fly, in addition to making a clutch running catch in the eighth that prevented the Reds from having a big frame.

Reds manager Dusty Baker only had to point to Maxwell's homer and Schafer's running catch to rob Joey Votto of a hit to identify what doomed his team.

"Those were two plays that really, really, really did us in," he said.

Astros closer Brett Myers worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 13th save in 14 tries and his first since May 25, when Houston beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles before starting an eight-game skid.

Brett Wallace, called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to the game, Jason Castro and Marwin Gonzalez each had two hits. Wallace, who hit a grand slam Saturday night for the RedHawks, awoke at 3:30 a.m. CT to catch a flight to Houston. He had hits in his first two at-bats.

"Coming up here and getting on base in the first at-bat is pretty ideal," he said. "It kind of settles you down a little bit. Getting a couple knocks, getting it out of the way, getting on base and scoring a couple runs, that's what I want to do. I want to help us win."

Lyles knows the Oklahoma City-Houston route all too well. He's been called up from Triple-A four different times this year, but this time, it appears he's going to stay a while.

Astros manager Brad Mills has been taking advantage of the team's off-days and employing a four-man rotation, calling up Lyles on four separate occasions to make a spot start. Mills said prior to Sunday's game that Lyles was in the rotation to stay.

"Maybe it will give a calming effect to him, just some consistency, knowing that he's going to get another start or whatever," Mills said. "We hope it does have a good effect on him and there's no reason it shouldn't have a good effect on him."

It had no effect on Lyles on Sunday, considering he wasn't told he was remaining in the rotation until after the game. When reporters informed him, he smiled and tried to downplay the importance of knowing he was going to get another start.

Lyles gave up a two-run homer to Zach Cozart in the third inning, but otherwise shut down the Reds. Four of the five hits he gave up were singles. The biggest key for Lyles was escaping the first inning unscathed after the Astros had been outscored 20-5 in first innings in their previous six games.

"For me, personally, that's been my Achilles' heel," Lyles said. "I'm either going to do well, and that's going to start from the first inning, or I'm going to give up a couple runs in the first inning. For me, all my efforts got to go into the first inning, that first hitter, get that first out. I did a decent job throwing the ball over the plate and Jason [Castro] really helped me through it. He called a great game."

Castro commended Lyles' ability to pitch inside.

"It's tough, but he really did that well today and that's why he was effective and that's what we needed from here on out," he said.

Lyles struck out Cozart swinging to start the game, setting the tone, and issued a two-out walk to Votto before Castro threw Votto out on the bases. Votto, who was 6-for-8 in the first two games of the series against Houston, sent a fly ball to deep left-center with runners at first and third and two outs in the eighth and watched Schafer catch it at the wall for a no-harm sacrifice fly.

"What a catch," Mills said. "That really could have started stirring things around if that ball would have fell in."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.