Series: Game 2 of 4

Houston leads 2-0 (as of 7/12)

Game 1: Thursday, July 11
Cincinnati 3Final
Houston 4
Game 2: Friday, July 12
Cincinnati 3Final
Houston 6
Game 3: Saturday, July 13
Cincinnati 1Final
Houston 2
Game 4: Sunday, July 14
Cincinnati 8Final
Houston 3

Reds 3

(46-43, 24-20 away)

Astros 6

(43-45, 24-18 home)

    8:05 PM ET, July 12, 2002

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

    123456789 R H E
    CIN 002010000 3 - -
    HOU 30210000 - 6 - -

    W: W. Miller (5-3)

    L: R. Dempster (5-9)

    S: B. Wagner (16)

    Astros spoil Dempster's debut with Reds

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Daryle Ward has found his home run swing.

    Jason La Rue and Ryan Dempster


    Ryan Dempster, right, struggled in his Reds debut, allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings.

    Ward homered and drove in three runs to help lead the Houston Astros to a 6-3 victory over Ryan Dempster and the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.

    It was Ward's third homer in 14 games. He hit only two in his first 75 games and went 215 straight at-bats without one.

    "I just think I'm starting to face teams for the second time this year,'' he said. "I'm starting to learn their pitchers better and kind of have an understanding of how to go at them.

    "This is my first year to start and I had a lot to learn. And I kind of got wore down the first half since I wasn't accustomed to playing every day. The All-Star break did me a lot of good,'' he said.

    Dempster (5-9) went 3 2/3 innings in his first start for the Reds since coming over from Florida in a trade Thursday. He allowed six runs on six hits.

    "They are a team that hits mistakes well,'' Dempster said. "And tonight I made too many.

    "A starting pitcher is supposed to give the team a chance to win. I didn't do my job. I felt good out there. There were just a couple of pitches I didn't execute on, one to (Richard) Hidalgo and one to Ward,'' he said.

    Manager Jimy Williams likes what he sees in Ward, who is 7-for-18 (.389) in his current five-game streak.

    "He's really stinging the ball, especially on that home run,'' Williams said. "I know him and (hitting coach) Harry Spilman have spent a lot of time working on things lately. It's not easy to be a good hitter.''

    Ward hit .300 much of the first half and led the team in hitting, but still heard much criticism for not hitting home runs and getting more RBI.

    "I'm not ashamed of anything I did the first half,'' Ward said. "I guess everybody wants you to do better no matter what you do. They saw me hit home runs in the past and wanted me to do it again. That's OK. It didn't bother me.''

    Houston won its fourth straight and 10th in 12 games and has impressed the Reds.

    "They're hot right now,'' catcher Jason LaRue said. "They're getting the big hits when they need them with men on base. That's the name of the game.'' ''

    It was the third straight loss and sixth in eight games for the Reds.

    "The guys that were hitting, I couldn't bunch them together,'' manager Bob Boone said. "I couldn't get the guys who were hitting together in the lineup.''

    Wade Miller (5-3) went five innings. He allowed three runs on eight hits, struck out five and walked one. Since coming off the disabled list May 29, Miller is 5-1 with a 4.29 ERA in nine starts and the Astros are 8-1 in those games.

    Miller improved to 3-0 in six career starts against the Reds.

    Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 19 opportunities.

    The Astros scored three runs in the first inning on Julio Lugo's leadoff homer, his fifth homer of the year, and a two-run double by Hidalgo.

    Ward's two-run homer gave Houston a 5-2 lead in the third.

    Hidalgo made two big defensive plays in the first four innings. In the second, Sean Casey had what appeared to be a double to right that Hidalgo fielded on one bounce, reeled and threw to second base, causing Casey to retreat to first.

    Miller induced a double play from Barry Larkin, the next batter, to get out of the inning unscathed.

    In the fourth, Hidalgo made a running catch of a potential double by Austin Kearns before crashing into the wall in the right field corner.

    Cincinnati's Todd Walker tied a career high with four hits.

    Game notes

    Lugo's first-inning homer was his third career leadoff homer He did it in consecutive games at Cincinnati on May 13-14 last season. ... 2B Craig Biggio, who didn't start his second straight game because of flulike symptoms, entered the game to play second in the seventh inning. ... Wagner became the team's all-time leader in appearances for a left-hander with 354, one ahead of Joe Sambito. ... Houston's T.J. Mathews made his fourth rehab appearance for New Orleans on Friday night, pitching one scoreless inning. Mathews, out since May 3 with a strained right biceps, likely will return to the team soon.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press