Astros make Reds see error of their ways

Astros make Reds see error of their ways

Astros make Reds see error of their ways
HOUSTON -- He nearly didn't make it to the ballpark. Matt Downs was one of three players the Astros called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City only hours before Saturday's 2-1 win over the National League Central-leading Reds at Minute Maid Park.

"Me and [Jose] Valdez got stuck on the runway [in Oklahoma City] because of the weather here," said Downs, who scored the winning run after igniting a ninth-inning rally with a two-out pinch-hit double.

"So we didn't get here until about 4:30 this afternoon. I missed BP but got here in time to get everything together."

Downs blasted a long double off the top of the left-field scoreboard to help the Astros snap a six-game losing streak and start September with a win.

"It was good to get a swing like that your first game back," said Downs, who thought he'd ended the game with a homer. "I actually celebrated a little early on the first-base line. I thought I'd hit it out, but I'll take the double. We won, that's the biggest thing."

Downs crossed the plate with the winning run when Jose Altuve hit a routine roller right through the legs of Reds second baseman Wilson Valdez, a late-inning replacement.

"It's part of baseball," said a dejected Valdez. "You're never going to be perfect. Anybody's going to miss a play. That was a bad moment that I made there because it cost us a baseball game. Tomorrow is a new game, and we'll see what happens."

Interim manager Tony DeFrancesco had no hesitation using Downs in the high-pressure situation.

"He's an established Major League pinch-hitter," DeFrancesco said. "That's definitely one of the roles he's going to have here this month."

Houston's third walk-off win of the season salvaged another outstanding effort from Lucas Harrell, who made his club-leading 27th start. Harrell didn't figure in the decision but kept his team in contention through seven innings, scattering seven hits, striking out three and allowing just one run.

Harrell has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts. Over that span he is 3-3 with a 2.58 ERA. With Saturday's outing he lowered his ERA at Minute Maid Park to 2.06, and he leads all Major League rookies in innings pitched, with 165 1/3.

"[Catcher Chris Snyder] and I just clicked," Harrell said. "We were on the same page. He called a great game. I felt comfortable throwing my sinker in today and a few times away.

"I got a lot of ground balls, and that was sort of the plan. We wanted to conserve pitches today and get a lot of early contact."

Harrell said that he, too, thought Downs' blast would clear the fence as he watched from the clubhouse.

"When Downs hit that ball, I was watching it on TV," he said. "I jumped up and gave a big fist pump. I thought he got it. It was good to see him come back and get a big hit."

A solo homer by Justin Maxwell in the fourth inning was one of just three hits the Astros recorded over eight innings off Reds starter Homer Bailey, who, like Harrell, did not figure in the decision.

Maxwell sat on a 2-1 fastball and went the other way with it, clearing the right-field fence by 10 rows. Seven of his 13 homers this season have come when Harrell was on the mound, including each of the last four.

"I'm going to make sure that when Harrell's on the mound, Maxwell will be in the lineup," DeFrancesco said.

Relievers Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno and Wilton Lopez combined for five strikeouts in two innings of no-hit relief, with Lopez (6-3) earning the win. He has six of the eight wins by Astros relievers this season.

"The clubhouse has a little life in it, finally," DeFrancesco said. "There's smiles and music going on. I'm really excited about what's going to happen here this month."

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.