Series: Game 3 of 3

Cincinnati won 2-1

Game 1: Friday, April 28
Game 2: Saturday, April 29
Game 3: Sunday, April 30

Astros 3

(16-8, 4-4 away)

Reds 2

(17-8, 8-4 home)

    1:15 PM ET, April 30, 2006

    Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 200100000 3 7 0
    CIN 000002000 2 4 0

    W: T. Buchholz (2-1)

    L: E. Ramirez (1-1)

    S: B. Lidge (8)

    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 teammates.

    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 walks.

    "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 outs."

    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 do."

    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 innings.

    "(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 down."

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press