Berkman's homer helps Astros avoid Reds sweep

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Lance Berkman remembers what it's like to be a
rookie, so he tries to do what he can to help his younger Houston

Berkman gave a big assist to rookie Taylor Buchholz with a
two-run homer in the first inning, and the right-hander went on to
earn his second consecutive win in Houston's 3-2 victory over the
Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

"I figured it's good with a young pitcher to give him a little
cushion," said Berkman, who's in his seventh season with Houston.
"That way, he doesn't feel like he has to be perfect."

Jason Lane added a solo homer for the Astros, who salvaged the
final game of their three-game series in Cincinnati.

Buchholz (2-1) allowed just one baserunner to reach second base
in the first five innings of his third major league start and fifth
appearance. Buchholz, who hadn't pitched since turning in 8 2-3
scoreless innings against Pittsburgh on April 22, gave up three
hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings. He had two strikeouts and four

"I was just trying to go out there and do what I've been
doing," Buchholz said of his layoff. "I stayed with my normal
routine. It didn't affect me much."

"He's been throwing well for them," Reds manager Jerry Narron
said. "He throws strikes. I was a little disappointed that we
didn't go deeper in counts early. We hit the first two pitches for

Chad Qualls pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings after Buchholz
issued back-to-back one-out walks in the seventh inning. Brad Lidge
pitched the ninth for his eighth save in 10 chances. He blew his
previous two save opportunities.

"I'm pretty happy, but I still think I can do better," said
Lidge, who allowed a hit and a walk with two strikeouts. "In a
one-run game, the save is all that matters."

Houston, coming off its first back-to-back losses of the season,
snapped Cincinnati's winning streak at six games and improved to
8-1 in one-run games.

Reds pitcher Elizardo Ramirez was solid in his second start
since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville to replace injured
Eric Milton, but he struggled early.

Ramirez hit Chris Burke with a pitch to lead off the game. One
out later, Berkman extended his hitting streak to a season-high
eight games and gave Houston a 2-0 lead with an opposite-field
homer to left, his 10th of the season.

"Naturally, a guy who hits in the middle of the order and is in
his seventh year with a team is going to take a little bit of that
leadership role, but there's no one here with a 'C' on their
jersey," Berkman said. "We have a bunch of guys who know what to

Jason Lane extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth with his sixth
homer and second in two games.

"The first couple of innings, (Ramirez) didn't throw as well as
in his last start," Narron said. "He relies on his command and
changing speeds. He still gave us a chance to win the game. We just
couldn't get anything going. He's a very poised young man."

Ramirez (1-1), who threw 36 pitches in the first inning, allowed
six hits and three runs with two walks and five strikeouts in six

"(Ramirez) is one of those pitchers who needs to relax more,"
said Reds catcher Javier Valentin, who struck out with runners on
first and second to end the game. "He needs to keep the ball

The Reds broke up Buchholz's bid for a shutout in the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Quinton McCracken led off with a single. Ryan Freel
followed with a walk, and after Felipe Lopez grounded into a double
play, Adam Dunn hit a 2-0 pitch for his ninth home run and first in
12 games.

The homer snapped Buchholz's streak of consecutive scoreless
innings at 15 1-3.

"He throws all of his pitches for strikes," Houston manager
Phil Garner said. "The only time he gets into trouble is when he
nitpicks. He got behind Dunn and had to come into him."

"I felt so locked in, then I got myself in a little funk,"
Buchholz said. "I'm disappointed with the way I finished, but
overall, I'm happy with the way I pitched."

Game notes
Berkman's homer was his 11th at Great American Ball Park,
snapping a tie with Milwaukee's Geoff Jenkins and Cubs slugger
Aramis Ramirez for the most homers by an opposing player at the
ballpark. ... Astros manager Phil Garner celebrated his 57th
birthday Sunday. ... 2B Craig Biggio got the day off after starting
11 consecutive games.