Cincinnati Reds

Pence drives in a winner as Astros avoid sweep

Edinson Volquez had his shortest outing of the season, allowing five walks and three runs in four innings.
Edinson Volquez had his shortest outing of the season, allowing five walks and three runs in four innings. MCT

HOUSTON — At the plate in the ninth inning with the game tied, Hunter Pence came through to help the Astros beat the Cincinnati Reds and end a four-game skid.

The former Lexington Legend hit a tiebreaking double to help the Astros avoid a series sweep with a 4-3 win over the Reds on Wednesday.

Mike Leake (3-2) walked J.R. Towles with one out in the ninth before Pence's full-count hit landed in the corner of right field and sent home Towles, who played in Lexington with Pence during the 2005 season.

"The last couple of games have been pretty rough," Pence said, referring to Houston's 13-4 run deficit over their last two. "We kind of came to a conclusion that ... we had to go out there and have fun and stay enthusiastic and just go as hard as we can as a team. We pitched well, played defense and found a way to get a win."

The Astros led 3-1 before the Reds tied it with consecutive homers by Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs in the seventh inning.

Michael Bourn gave the Astros an early lead with a two-run single in the second inning, and Houston's offense was helped by drawing a season-high nine walks.

"We fought to get back, but it is very difficult to win when you give up nine walks," Reds Manager Dusty Baker said. "Three of their four runs were walked."

Pence also had a nice diving catch for the first out in the seventh inning to aid in the victory.

"Everything that he does every day is all out, and (he does) everything that he can do to help this ball club win," Houston Manager Brad Mills said of Pence.

Wandy Rodriguez tied a season high by allowing 10 hits and gave up three runs with four strikeouts in seven innings. He was replaced by Wilton Lopez, who pitched a perfect eighth before Mark Melancon (3-1) came on in the ninth.

Mills has been impressed with the work of Melancon, who has been filling in at closer with Brandon Lyon on the disabled list. He has a 1.45 ERA this season.

"He developed into the pitcher that we knew he was capable of being," Mills said.

Pence doubled with two outs in the seventh inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. Logan Ondrusek intentionally walked Brett Wallace before walking Chris Johnson to load the bases, but a pop fly by Matt Downs ended the inning.

Nick Masset pitched a scoreless eighth for the Reds.

Heisey's pinch-hit homer off Rodriguez bounced off the inside of the pole in left field and got Cincinnati within one, 3-2 in the seventh inning. Stubbs followed with his shot to right field that tied it 3-all.

Edgar Renteria reached on an error by third baseman Johnson after the second homer and before a single by Brandon Phillips left runners at the corners with two outs. Jonny Gomes grounded into a forceout to end the inning with the game tied.

Sam LeCure pitched two scoreless innings after starter Edinson Volquez left before Ondrusek took over in the seventh.

Volquez gave up three hits and three runs with five walks in four innings, his shortest outing of the season.

"I've got to find a way to throw strikes," Volquez said. "My breaking ball and my change-up were good today, but I didn't have my fastball."

On the season, the right- hander has walked 33 in 421⁄3 innings. Volquez said he didn't know what the problem was, but sometimes it feels like his arm is too strong.

"I feel good," he said. "Sometimes I throw strikes, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I feel strong, but it's too strong you can't control it. Today I didn't have my fastball command. I threw four innings and threw 88 pitches. I think everybody wants to go deep in the game — eight or seven innings. I want to go deep in the game."

Volquez walked three straight with one out in the second before retiring Rodriguez. Then Bourn hit his two-RBI single.

Joey Votto singled in the sixth inning before Rodriguez struck out Phillips. Gomes singled, but Rodriguez retired the next two batters to get out of that inning.

Cincinnati's first run came when Votto tripled and scored on a groundout by Phillips with no outs in the fourth inning to make it 3-1. Ramon Hernandez singled with two outs, but Rodriguez struck out Jay Bruce to escape the inning.