Villone tames Houston again

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2000

The Associated Press

Houston – Jose Lima felt home for the first time at Enron Field.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

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Houston – Jose Lima felt home for the first time at Enron Field. But he lost his sixth straight decision because Ron Villone always feels comfortable against the Astros. Villone allowed two hits in seven innings, and Aaron Boone homered off Lima with two outs in the seventh inning to break a scoreless tie as the Cincinnati Reds beat Houston 4-3 on Monday night.

”Villone did a super job,” manager Jack McKeon said. ”He’s been brilliant each of the last four times out. He kept them at bay with his off-speed stuff.”

He always seems to do that against the Astros. Villone improved to 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA against Houston.

”I’m not looking at it as the Astros,” Villone said. ”I’m just treating them like anybody else. Every game I try to be smart and know what I’m doing out there.

”But it seems like every game against them things have gone the right way. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or I’m lucky or what.”

Ken Griffey Jr. hit a two-run homer for the Reds, who won for the seventh time in eight games to move into a tie for first place in the NL Central with St. Louis.

”He’s been our biggest clutch performer,” McKeon said of Griffey. ”He drives in a lot of runs for us when we need them to win or tie the game.”

Villone (5-1) struck out three and walked five in matching his longest outing of the year. He won his third straight decision.

”The big thing about him is he’s effectively wild,” Jeff Bagwell said. ”He’ll throw some pitches all over the place and then he’ll make a great pitch in the paint.

”It’s hard to get comfortable against him. You don’t know what he’s trying to do so you don’t know what to look for.”

Lima (1-6), who is on the longest losing streak of his career, pitched his best game of the season, allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings to lower his ERA from 9.53 to 8.49.

Lima didn’t allow the Reds until the seventh, his longest scoreless stretch this season.

”He should have convinced himself he can pitch a good game against a good hitting team in a small park,” Astros manager Larry Dierker said. ”Unfortunately, we just didn’t get him enough runs. It’s hard to feel good about improving when you don’t win.”

Boone broke up Lima’s shutout by hitting a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence with Eddie Taubensee on first in the seventh. It was the 17th homer allowed by Lima this season.

Villone was methodical, retiring 10 of 11 batters in one span from the second to the fifth inning. Ken Caminiti’s single in the first was the only hit he allowed until the seventh.

Villone, who had lasted seven innings only one other time (April 11 at Colorado), lost his shutout in the bottom of the inning when Tony Eusebio homered.

Danny Graves pitched two innings for his sixth save despite allowing an RBI double to Jeff Bagwell in the eighth inning and a solo homer to Daryle Ward in the ninth.

Notes: Lima is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in four starts at Enron Field. … The Astros are 0-18 in games in which they trail after eight innings … Counting Monday’s crowd of 41,710, the Astros have had eight sellouts in 19 home games … Cincinnati’s Michael Tucker is 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.