CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Houston Astros are hitting their way into
the NL wild-card race.
Brad Ausmus hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth
inning as the surging Astros reached double figures in runs for the
third time in the last four games in an 11-3 victory over the
Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.Lance Berkman homered twice and drove in four runs for the
Astros, who have scored a combined 43 runs in their last four games
and won for the seventh time in eight games."We're taking the pressure off of our pitchers," said Berkman,
who had the 13th multihomer game of his career and fifth against
Cincinnati. "Hopefully, we're getting on a roll at the right time.
We had a period of time when things weren't going well, and it was
all gloom and doom. Now, it's going the other way."Houston remained just four games behind Chicago, which leads the
NL wild-card race. The Astros won the last three of their four-game
series against the Cubs over the weekend before beating the Reds."You know how many runs they scored in the Chicago series,"
Reds manager Dave Miley said. "They're hitting the ball well."Pete Munro (3-5) went five-plus innings to win for the first
time in seven starts since July 25. He gave up three runs and eight
hits, and struck out a season-high six.Adam Dunn hit his 40th homer for the Reds, and Felipe Lopez
added a two-run shot."It's just not good timing for us right now," Dunn said.
"We're playing as bad as we've played in a while, and it doesn't
help to be playing teams that are really hot."With the game tied at 3, Jeff Kent reached on a leadoff infield
single, Mike Lamb grounded into fielder's choice, Jose Vizcaino
singled and Ausmus homered to center on a 3-0 pitch from Phil
Norton (1-5).It was Ausmus' first homer in 59 at-bats since July 25."We've been getting timely hitting, just not usually from me,"
Ausmus said. "I was looking for a fastball up and out over the
plate, and I was lucky enough to get one."Houston broke it open with a four-run seventh, including
Berkman's two-run double and Ausmus's run-scoring single. Berkman
scored when Dunn failed to catch Kent's drive to the warning track
in left for a two-base error.The Astros scored an unearned run in the first when Craig Biggio
scored from third on third baseman Ryan Freel's two-out fielding
error on Kent's sharp grounder.Munro made it 2-0 in the second, driving in Vizcaino with a
sacrifice fly for the third RBI of his five-year career -- and first
since 2002.Berkman made it 3-0 with his 22nd homer, and second in two days,
in the third off Luke Hudson.The Reds tied it in the fifth. Freel hit a leadoff double and
Lopez followed with a drive to center off Munro for his fifth
homer. One out later, Dunn hit his 40th -- becoming the eighth
player in team history to hit that many.Hudson allowed three runs -- two earned -- and four hits in a
career-low four innings.
Astros OF Carlos Beltran was named NL Player of the Week
after hitting .435 with six homers, 11 RBI and four stolen bases
while Houston was going 6-1 last week. ... Beltran was back in the
lineup Monday, one day after getting hit by a pitch in the left
knee and leaving the game against Chicago in the eighth inning. ...
Cincinnati's Sean Casey snapped an 0-for-10 slump with a
first-inning single. ... Cincinnati's Jason LaRue was hit by a
pitch for the 20th time, the second consecutive season he has been
hit by that many. He shares the club record with Frank Robinson,
who was hit 20 times in 1956.