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Dunn, Griffey pound homers as Reds top Astros

HOUSTON (AP) -- Elizardo Ramirez lost count of the consecutive
strikeouts he had between the third and fifth innings of the
Cincinnati Reds' 8-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday
night.

He smiled when someone told him after the game he fanned seven
in a row, the most by a Red since John Smiley had seven straight
against Colorado in 1996.

"I knew I threw a lot of strikeouts," Ramirez said. "I didn't
know how many I had. That's nice."

It was the most consecutive strikeouts since Kerry Wood of the
Chicago Cubs fanned seven straight against Atlanta in April 2004.

"I felt very good, my concentration was very good," Ramirez
said.

Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. homered and Ramirez also had an
RBI double. Dunn went 3-for-3 with four RBI and Ramirez (4-6) went
6 2/3 innings to win for the first time since June 25, allowing six
hits and striking out eight.

"Those seven strikeouts, against major league players, that's a
pretty awesome feat," Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron said. "He
had real good velocity on his fastball and his curveball was
outstanding."

Lance Berkman, Luke Scott and Eric Munson had RBI singles in the
eighth off Reds reliever Billy Bray to make it 6-4, but Todd Coffey
came on and struck out Adam Everett to end the inning.

The Astros dropped six games under .500 (48-54) and six games
behind the Reds in the crowded NL wild card race.

"We're just not getting on a roll," Houston manager Phil
Garner said. "We're not putting anything together."

Dunn and Rich Aurilia added RBI singles in the ninth off Brad Lidge, ending the Houston bullpen's scoreless streak at 27 innings,
the longest in the majors this season.

Astros starter Taylor Buchholz (6-9) lasted only two innings as
the Reds hammered him from their first at-bat.

Ryan Freel ripped Buchholz's third pitch into the right-field
corner for a double and Dunn followed with a liner to left-center
for his eighth RBI since the All-Star break.

Griffey then hit his 20th homer of the season and the 556th of
his career, a towering two-run drive over the Astros' bullpen in
right-center.

That was all the run support Ramirez needed.

"Any time you do that for a pitcher, then you let him go out
and make his pitches," Griffey said. "It makes it a lot easier
for anybody."

The Reds didn't let up in the second.

Royce Clayton led off with a hard single to left and stole
second. Ramirez, a career .100 hitter (3-for-30), then hammered a
double -- his first -- to the wall in right. Clayton scored, giving
Ramirez his second career RBI.

Dunn, hitting .340 since June 25, then crushed a 3-2 pitch over
the fence in center, his 31st. It was Dunn's sixth straight hit in
the series after he tied a career high with four hits on Wednesday.

"I just didn't really have a clue where the ball was going,"
said Buchholz, who threw only 39 pitches. "I was just missing
right down the middle, up belt-high. And they were hitting it every
time."

Willy Taveras pinch hit for Buchholz in the second, ending the
rookie right-hander's shortest outing in 18 career starts. Taveras
blooped an RBI single to center to cut Cincinnati's lead to 6-1.

Matt Albers, called up on July 20, relieved Buchholz and retired
the Reds in order in the third and fourth. He pitched five
scoreless innings, retiring 15 of the 20 batters he faced.

"The first pitch I threw got hit pretty hard, but it went right
at a guy," Albers said. "I was like, 'OK, just keep it up and get
outs quick."

The Astros never mustered much against Ramirez, who retired 13
straight after Taveras' hit, striking out the side in the fourth
and fifth. Craig Biggio battled Ramirez for 16 pitches, fouling off
11, before striking out on a belt-high fastball to end the fifth.

"That at-bat against Biggio was an outstanding duel," Narron
said. "To come away with that one was excellent."

Chris Burke popped out to Clayton leading off the sixth,
snapping Ramirez's strikeout string. Berkman grounded out and
Aubrey Huff flew out to end the inning after just five pitches from
Ramirez.

"He mixed up his pitches well," Reds catcher Javier Valentin
said.

Biggio doubled off Reds reliever Gary Majewski to start the
Astros' late rally. Burke was hit by a pitch, Bray relieved
Majewski and Berkman hit an RBI single off shortstop Clayton's
glove. Berkman then left the game, aggravating a left groin injury
he suffered on Sunday.

After an out, Scott and Munson had consecutive RBI singles,
chasing Bray after two-thirds of an inning. But the comeback
stopped there.

"It's always a letdown when you don't win a game," Munson
said. "When you get close like that, is it more of a letdown? I
mean, I don't know. We have to try to forget about it and come back
tomorrow."

Game notes
Griffey recorded his 1,591st RBI, tying Andre Dawson for
24th all-time. ... Narron earned his 100th win as Reds manager. ...
The Reds improved to 36-10 when they score first, the best
percentage in the NL. ... The Astros have lost seven of nine to the
Reds this season. ... The bullpen's scoreless streak was the
Astros' longest since 1989, when they went 29 1/3 innings.