CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Cincinnati Reds set franchise slugging
records while finishing fifth in the NL Central last season.
This year, they're using small ball to reach new heights.The Reds hit one homer Saturday, but they got some help from
Houston while manufacturing five runs and set a club record for
wins in April by beating the Astros 6-3.Aaron Harang earned his fourth consecutive victory and Rich
Aurilia hit his fourth homer as Cincinnati sent Andy Pettitte (1-4)
to his third straight loss.Brandon Phillips also had two RBI and scored on a wild pitch to
help the Reds (17-7) extend their winning streak to six, their
longest since a seven-game spurt in May 2004. They lead the major
leagues in wins."When you're facing good pitching, you know you can't count on
hitting a lot of home runs," manager Jerry Narron said. "With
guys like Phillips, you know you have a chance to do some things
other than hitting the ball out of the ballpark."Harang (4-1) gave up five hits and three runs in 7 2-3 innings
to earn his fourth win in five starts since losing on opening day.
He allowed two walks with seven strikeouts.Kent Mercker came on and gave up Lance Berkman's run-scoring
single before getting the final out of the eighth. David Weathers
pitched the ninth for his eighth save in nine opportunities.Jason Lane gave Houston a 2-0 lead in the second with his fifth
home run. He followed Preston Wilson's one-out single with a
427-foot shot to left field on a 3-0 pitch that reached the second
row of the upper deck."I was rushing a lot," Harang said of his first three innings.
"My release point was inconsistent, but I was able to keep them
off balance by pitching up and down in the zone. Guys made plays
behind me, and I hit my rhythm about the fifth inning."The Reds capitalized on Pettitte's control problems to take the
lead while batting around in the fourth. The left-hander issued
back-to-back walks to Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns with one out.
Dunn scored on Edwin Encarnacion's line-drive double off the
left-field wall. Phillips followed with a chopper up the third-base
line for an infield single that drove in Kearns, and Encarnacion
scored when Pettitte fielded the ball and threw wildly past first
for an error."The first three innings, I couldn't have felt more in
control," Pettitte said. "I got a quick out in the fourth, then I
walked Adam. I started overthrowing and pulling the ball across the
dish. It continued with Kearns, and I got out of synch. I threw a
horrible pitch to Encarnacion."Jason LaRue struck out, but Phillips moved to second on Harang's
single, stole third and scored when Pettitte threw a wild pitch on
ball four to Ryan Freel."It's hard to get four runs off Andy," Houston manager Phil
Garner said. "When you do, you know something's not right."Aurilia led off the fifth with a homer to center. Dunn followed
with a double, moved to third on Kearns' single and, after
Encarnacion struck out, scored on Phillips' grounder to second."The way we've been going, especially if (opposing pitchers)
are throwing well, if we can drag it out long enough and get into
their bullpen, we've been having some scoring late in games,"
Harang said. "Our guys are coming out in the fifth or sixth
inning, if they haven't put some (runs) up early."Pettitte was roughed up for 11 hits and six runs with three
walks and six strikeouts in five innings. He fell to 2-2 in his
career against the Reds less than 24 hours after teammate Roy
Oswalt lost for the first time in 16 career decisions against
Cincinnati.The Reds, who set the single-season franchise record for home
runs, extra-base hits and doubles last year, beat Oswalt without
hitting a home run."If you put the ball in play, you make things happen," Narron
said. "To beat Oswalt and Pettitte back-to-back says a lot about
our ballclub right now. I'm happy with the way we come out and
grind it out every night. It's really nice to see."
Narron doesn't expect CF Ken Griffey Jr. to be activated
from the 15-day disabled list until "sometime next week, at the
earliest," he said. Griffey, who is out with an inflamed tendon
behind his right knee, was eligible to be activated on Friday. ...
Kearns' second-inning single snapped his streak of hitless at-bats
at 14. ... SS Adam Everett started for Houston after missing the
previous two games with a bruised left hand. ... Dunn hasn't
homered in 36 at-bats. He had a drought of 41 at-bats last season.
... The Astros have lost a series after winning six of their first
seven and splitting the seventh.