Series: Game 1 of 3

Cincinnati leads 1-0 (as of 8/21)

Game 1: Monday, August 21
Game 2: Tuesday, August 22
Game 3: Wednesday, August 23

Astros 3

(59-66, 25-35 away)

Reds 4

(65-60, 34-32 home)

    7:10 PM ET, August 21, 2006

    Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

    123456789 R H E
    HOU 020000100 3 6 0
    CIN 00000004 - 4 12 0

    W: R. Franklin (4-6)

    L: C. Qualls (4-3)

    S: S. Schoeneweis (2)

    Aurilia carries Reds past Astros, closer to Cardinals

    CINCINNATI -- Rich Aurilia's first two hits didn't make it out of the infield. His third was a double that conveniently landed just inside the foul line.

    Elias Says
    The Reds beat the Astros after trailing by three runs going to the bottom of the eighth. It's the fifth time this season that the Reds have won when trailing by at least three in the eighth inning or later. The only major league team to do that even half as often as the Reds this year is the Padres, who have three wins when trailing by at least three in the eighth or later. The Reds also tied a team record in that category, set in 2000.

    • For more Elias Says, click here

    In his fourth at-bat, he still had a little luck left.

    Aurilia got a hanging slider on his first pitch in the eighth inning, and connected for a three-run homer that rallied the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night.

    The pitch from reliever Chad Qualls provided a fitting finish to his 4-for-4 night.

    "It was a slider," Aurilia said. "It didn't do much."

    Royce Clayton's run-scoring single later in the eighth completed the comeback and tightened the NL Central. Second-place Cincinnati moved two games behind idle St. Louis, staying in contention with a retooled roster and a lot of late comebacks.

    "This is a resilient bunch," Aurilia said. "It's a lot of fun. Nobody ever gives up. It says a lot about the guys on the team -- even the new guys. It's been like a revolving door all season, but we keep getting the same type of people."

    The Reds have morphed into a contender by remaking their roster during the season -- 13 of the current 25 players were obtained since spring training -- and by doing some of their best hitting in the last innings.

    Aurilia's homer and Clayton's single off Qualls (4-3) gave the Reds their eighth win of the season when they trailed after seven innings.

    "It's a shame we were not able to pull this one off," said left-hander Andy Pettitte, who turned a 2-0 lead over to the Astros bullpen in the sixth. "They've been playing extremely well and coming back late in games all year."

    By contrast, the Astros lost for the eighth time in 10 games, unable to get anything other than solo homers. Aubrey Huff hit two of them, and Lance Berkman also connected off Bronson Arroyo.

    Willy Taveras extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a game-opening bunt single, then got caught stealing on the next pitch -- a sign that things wouldn't come easy for an Astros offense that is often all-or-nothing.

    "I can't explain that," manager Phil Garner said. "We've been down that road probably -- how many games have we played, 125? We've probably had 100 games like this. I don't have an explanation."

    Ryan Franklin (4-6) pitched a perfect eighth to get the win, and newcomer Scott Schoeneweis got the last three outs for his first save. The Reds are using a collection of relievers to close games while Eddie Guardado is on the disabled list with a sore forearm.

    The no-decision left Arroyo stuck in a two-month rut. The All-Star has only one victory in his last 12 starts, the result of misfortune and mistakes that prompted him to briefly change his hairstyle for luck.

    Again Monday, there was no such luck. He gave up only five hits, including solo homers by Berkman and Huff, but left trailing 2-0 after six innings.

    "It was tough to come out," Arroyo said. "I felt so good. A game like that, you have so much energy. It felt like the game went by in 2 seconds."

    It dragged for Pettitte, who matched his season high by fanning 10 batters in 5 1/3 scoreless innings before leaving after his 118th pitch. He allowed six hits and escaped bases-loaded threats in the second and third innings, hiking his pitch count.

    Then, he played spectator to another nasty loss.

    "They're tough, that's for sure," Pettitte said. "There has been a lot of heartbreak games this year. We did that the last few years to teams."

    Berkman led off the second inning with his 34th homer, adding to his history of success against Cincinnati. His 12 homers at Great American Ball Park are the most by any visiting player, and his 35 career homers against Cincinnati are a personal best.

    Huff also homered off Arroyo, who has given up a career-high 28 this season, second-most in the NL. Huff added another solo shot, his seventh, off Rheal Cormier in the seventh.

    Game Notes
    It was Huff's second two-homer game of the season and the sixth of his career. ... Taveras' streak is one shy of Jeff Kent's club record, 25 games in 2004. ... The longest hitting streak in the NL this season was by Philadelphia's Chase Utley, who hit in 35 straight. ... LHP Chris Michalak is expected back in time to make his scheduled start on Wednesday against the Astros. He returned to his native Joliet, Ill., after the death of his 102-year-old grandmother, who will be buried on Tuesday.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press