Milton gives up three hits over seven innings

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The last time Eric Milton pitched against the Astros he was still fighting off the flu. It showed. He lost.

Six days later, the left-hander showed 'em something else.

Milton finally pitched like a pricey and prized acquisition on Saturday, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory that ended their 12-game losing streak against Houston.

Milton (2-1) gave up three hits in seven innings, his first impressive showing in three starts for the team that made him the centerpiece of its offseason overhaul. Milton got a $4 million bonus as part of a three-year, $25.5 million deal last December.

"I felt strong until the end, and that's a positive," Milton said. "I felt a hundred times better today than I did last week. I was glad to be out there. I wasn't at the top of my game, but I felt pretty good."

The Reds had to beat left-hander Andy Pettitte (0-1) to break one of the longest head-to-head losing streaks in franchise history. They'd dropped 12 straight to Houston since July 31, the
sixth-longest streak in club history.

Wily Mo Pena had an RBI single and Rich Aurilia singled home two more during a three-run fourth off Pettitte.

"I know that dating to last year, we hadn't won against these guys, so it's nice," Aurilia said. "I didn't hit it hard, but I hit it in the right spot."

Pettitte was part of the Astros' pitching overhaul for 2004 but was on the disabled list three times last season and had elbow surgery on Aug. 24. The left-hander threw 104 pitches in his last outing and 100 again on Saturday, looking close to normal as he got deep into the game.

"I think he's there," manager Phil Garner said. "I think he got over a major hurdle in his last start. I don't even think about that."

Danny Graves gave up a pinch-hit RBI single to Mike Lamb in the ninth but finished the combined five-hitter for his third save.

During the Astros' 12-game winning streak, the matchups were often one-sided -- Houston outscored Cincinnati 91-34. The streak-buster was tight and, often, just plain weird.

The ballpark's fire alarms sounded and flashed a few minutes
before the first pitch. The annoying whine was still sounding when
Adam Everett flied out to start the game.

All was quiet when Jeff Bagwell came to bat with two outs, until a female voice came on the public address system saying, "May I have your attention. This is a false alarm." Bagwell backed out of the batter's box during the announcement but then dug in and finished off a four-pitch walk from Milton.

In the bottom of the inning, Ken Griffey Jr. hit a soft grounder down the first base line, took a few steps and then stopped and watched, evidently thinking the ball was going foul. It stayed fair, Bagwell made the easy play and Griffey was booed loudly as he turned and headed for the dugout.

More zaniness set up the Reds' three-run rally in the fourth, which opened with Griffey drawing a walk and moving to second on Sean Casey's single. Casey, one of the Reds' slowest runners, inexplicably rounded second base on Joe Randa's flyout to the warning track, leaving him easy prey for a double play. Casey smacked both hands on his helmet after he was doubled up at first.

Casey was pacing angrily in the dugout, muttering to himself, while the Reds turned his gaffe into a rallying point. Kearns walked, Pena singled home a run and Aurilia finished the rally with a two-run single that dropped just beyond the reach of second baseman Craig Biggio.

It was the only bad moment for Pettitte, who gave up eight hits and three walks in seven innings, his longest outing of the season.

"I feel like I'm coming along," Pettitte said. "There are still some things that I'd like to be better at, and it's coming, no doubt. I don't have any pain. I'm feeling great and it's encouraging."

Brad Ausmus snapped an 0-for-19 slump with a run-scoring double in the fifth, cutting it to 3-1.

Game notes
Biggio was 0-for-4, ending his nine-game hitting streak. ... Houston right-hander Brandon Duckworth will make his first start of the season Sunday. Duckworth is 16-20 career as a starter with a 5.06 ERA. ... Slumping Reds outfielder Adam Dunn was out of the lineup against a pitcher who handles him easily. Dunn is 0-for-5 in his career against Pettitte with four strikeouts. Since hitting two homers on Opening Day, Dunn has gone 4-for-28. ... The Reds' record for consecutive losses to an opponent is 20, against the 1937-38 Pirates.