<
>

Philips, Reds finally solve Oswalt, Astros

CINCINNATI (AP) -- On their 20th try, the Cincinnati Reds finally
beat Roy Oswalt, led by a newcomer who wasn't fully aware of what
was at stake.

Brandon Phillips doubled, singled and scored twice off the
pitcher who had the Reds' number until Friday night, then added a
bases-loaded single off the bullpen for a 5-4 victory over the
Houston Astros.

With their eighth victory in nine games, the Reds moved into
first place in the NL Central, a half-game ahead of the Astros.
Cincinnati (16-7) also matched its club record for most victories
in April, with two chances left to top it.

This one will be remembered for who lost.

Oswalt was the only pitcher in major league history to go 15-0
against a team, an unblemished stretch that included 17 starts and
two relief appearances scattered over three ballparks -- two in
Cincinnati, one in Houston.

What's more, Oswalt had won his last seven starts against the
Reds, who knew they'd need a few breaks to finally beat him.

They got them.

"Eventually, it's going to come to an end, if you play long
enough," said Oswalt (4-1), who gave up eight hits and three walks
in six innings. "I didn't really have a breaking pitch the whole
night. I had to pitch with the fastball, and I didn't really get it
where I wanted to, either. So it could have been easily a lot
worse."

Oswalt gave up runs on an opposite-field single, an infield
single and a sacrifice fly, and got topped by a starter coming off
the worst performance of his career. Left-hander Brandon Claussen
(2-2) gave up a career-high nine runs -- including four homers in
one inning -- in an 11-0 loss in Milwaukee on Saturday.

This time, Claussen gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings, including
Preston Wilson's solo homer, giving the Reds a chance to end's
Oswalt's run.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't know about it,"
Claussen said. "It's all everybody talked about. You'd have to be
on another world to not know about it. That's something nobody's
ever done."

David Weathers gave up a two-run homer in the ninth to Lance
Berkman -- a fan reached in front of the foul pole to catch it --
before finishing for his seventh save in eight chances.

Phillips, the NL's most recent player of the week, was again the
catalyst, going 3-for-4 in the breakthrough win. He scored the
first two runs off Oswalt, and his two-run single off Chad Qualls
made it 5-2 in the seventh inning.

Phillips, acquired in a trade with Cleveland on April 7, didn't
know that Oswalt was 15-0 against the Reds until Ken Griffey Jr.
told him about it right before the game.

"We just wanted to try and really get him today -- not that they
weren't trying to get him the other times," Phillips said. "I was
talking to Griffey about it and we were playing around, and I said,
'Let's go out and break it tonight. Let's just have some fun."

Cincinnati pressed on without Griffey, who was eligible to come
off the 15-day disabled list Friday. Griffey, bothered by an
inflamed tendon behind his right knee, hasn't fully recovered from
the nagging injury.

Not that he would have been much help against Oswalt -- he's only
4-for-25 in his career without a homer off the right-hander.

Instead, a player who had never faced Oswalt led the Reds to
victory over their biggest nemesis. Phillips doubled to left and
came around on Jason LaRue's soft, opposite-field single for a 1-0
lead in the second inning -- Claussen's first career lead when
facing the Astros. In all of his three previous starts against
Houston, the Reds were shut out.

Claussen doubled his good fortune by driving in Phillips with an
infield single in the fourth, his first RBI since June 28, 2003.
Austin Kearns added a sacrifice fly in the fifth, when the Reds
sensed they had the chance to break a streak that still amazed
after it ended.

"That's pretty good," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "He
can start another five-year run if he wants to. That's pretty
incredible. I don't know how to explain that."

Game notes
Astros SS Adam Everett was out of the lineup for the second
straight game with a bruised left hand. Garner expects him back
Saturday. ... Reds RHP Paul Wilson felt fine Friday, a day after
his first rehabilitation start. He threw 92 pitches for Class A
Dayton on Thursday. Wilson, who had shoulder surgery last June 17,
might be ready to rejoin the Reds in May. ... OF Cody Ross made his
first appearance for the Reds as a pinch hitter and struck out
swinging at a pitch that hit him on the left hand. X-rays found no
fracture. ... The crowd of 32,089 fans included 9,756 who bought
tickets at the gate before the game, a sign of growing interest in
the Reds.