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Freel's second homer lifts Reds over 'Stros in 11

HOUSTON (AP) -- Ryan Freel was relieved to learn that Houston ace
Roy Oswalt was out with back spasms, and he took advantage of his
absence.

Freel hit his second homer of the game in the 11th inning to
lift the Cincinnati Reds over the Astros 6-4 Sunday, completing a
three-game sweep.

Freel's two-out, two-run homer off Russ Springer completed the
first multihomer game of his career. David Ross, who drew a
pinch-hit walk, scored on Freel's drive to left.

"The key situation in this game was that Roy Oswalt didn't
pitch," said Freel, who had just two home runs this season
entering Sunday's game. "He's 15-1 against us. He's on a pretty
good run when he just has been lights out against us.

"I was happy to see he wasn't pitching. That was a plus for us,
that's for sure."

Todd Coffey (3-0) allowed two hits and one run in the 10th
inning for Cincinnati, which swept a series in Houston for the
first time since June 1999. It also breaks a streak of seven
straight series losses in Houston for the Reds.

"They've got a lot of heart," Reds manager Jerry Narron said
of the Astros. "I'm just pleased to get these three wins. We've
had trouble getting one in here sometimes."

Felipe Lopez hit an RBI double in the 10th inning to put
Cincinnati ahead 4-3 before Chris Burke's run-scoring double in the
bottom half tied it. Burke also singled in a run in the eighth to
tie the game at 3.

Burke's double in the 10th off Coffey scored Craig Biggio, who
reached by hitting his 625th career double to pass Hank Aaron for
ninth on the career list.

Esteban Yan, acquired from the Angels on Tuesday, got his first
save after allowing one hit in the 11th. Eric Munson grounded into
double play to end the game.

Dan Wheeler (0-4) gave up one hit and two runs in 1 1-3 innings
for the loss.

With one out in the ninth, Scott Hatteberg reached first on an
error by shortstop Eric Bruntlett before a single by Javier
Valentin. Houston closer Brad Lidge struck out Edwin Encarnacion
and Rich Aurilia to end the inning.

Austin Kearns hit his second home run off Trever Miller in the
sixth give the Reds a 3-2 lead. It was the third career multihomer
game for Kearns and his first this season.

Biggio's bases-loaded sacrifice fly scored Brad Ausmus in the
fifth and tied it at 2. Ken Griffey Jr. stretched to make an
impressive diving catch just in front of the wall in left-center to
retire Biggio.

Freel also homered in the third and Kearns hit his first drive
in the fourth as Cincinnati led 2-1 after four.

Burke said the team has to find a way to turn things around
after losing nine of the last 11 games.

"It's frustrating after a road trip to come home and get
swept," he said. "We need to start playing better ball all the
way around."

Fernando Nieve started after Oswalt was scratched from the
lineup just two minutes before the scheduled start of the game. The
game was pushed back 10 minutes because of the change.

Nieve allowed four hits and two runs in five innings while
striking out two.

Reds starter Elizardo Ramirez rebounded from his last outing,
where he gave up a career-high nine hits in a 7-3 loss to the
Chicago Cubs. He allowed three hits and two runs in six innings.

"I'm really pleased with how Ramirez threw," Narron said.
"The way he pitched early saved the game for us."

Houston took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Morgan Ensberg
hit his 18th home run.

The Astros have lost four in a row to drop to three games under
.500 (27-30) for the first time this season. Sunday's game was
their fourth extra-inning game in the last eight and the sixth of
the season.

"We've had a couple of those heartbreakers lately," Astros
manager Phil Garner said. "If we're tough we'll come through it.
If we're not we won't. But I have a feeling we will."

Game notes
Griffey and Freel have six-game hitting streaks. ... The
Reds have won four straight. ... The Astros have lost three
straight at home, matching their longest home losing skid of the
season.