Astros rebound to beat Reds, 5-2

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2003

CINCINNATI - The Houston Astros only spent a few hours in second place.

Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer, and Wade Miller pitched one-hit ball for six innings as the Astros snapped a four-game skid Saturday with a 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jeff Kent homered for the second consecutive game for the Astros, who dropped out of first place in the NL Central on Friday night for the first time since July 7. But by the next afternoon, Houston was back in front of the Chicago Cubs, who lost to the Dodgers on Saturday.

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''One thing about this sport is there's always tomorrow - unless it's the last game of the season,'' Houston slugger Jeff Bagwell said. ''We were out of it for 12 hours. It'll make it a lot better if we can find a way to win tomorrow.''

Miller (10-10) overcame control problems to win his third straight start and improve to 6-0 in 11 career games against Cincinnati. The right-hander had four strikeouts and matched his season high with four walks.

''That was a gutty performance,'' Astros manager Jimy Williams said. ''He battled and gave us six good innings. He made pitches when he had to. We wanted to get him out of there after six and hope the bullpen could get us nine outs.''

Rick White allowed a run in the seventh and Octavio Dotel worked a scoreless eighth. Billy Wagner got three outs for his 35th save in 38 opportunities, finishing the five-hitter.

Seth Etherton (0-1) allowed six hits and five runs in five innings, his first major league appearance since Aug. 4, 2000, for Anaheim at Cleveland. Etherton was acquired by the Reds in December 2000, but a series of arm injuries kept him from pitching in the majors.

''He threw the ball well,'' Cincinnati interim manager Dave Miley said. ''The longball hurt him. If you leave Berkman a pitch like that, he'll hurt anybody.''

Kent led off the second with his 17th home run. Miller singled and scored on Bagwell's sacrifice fly in the third for a 2-0 lead.

Morgan Ensberg singled and Bagwell walked with one out in the fifth. After Kent flied out, Berkman lined a fastball into the right-field seats for his 22nd homer of the season.

''One pitch,'' Etherton said. ''If there was any such thing as a mulligan or a do-over in this game, I'd take it. It got a little more of the plate than I wanted, and he hammered it.''

Miller held the Reds hitless until Dernell Stenson connected for what appeared to be a homer with two outs in the fourth. Second base umpire Rob Drake ruled fan interference and a ground-rule double, but replays seemed to show the ball went into the first row of seats before bouncing back onto the field.

''You can't really get it back, so you let it go,'' said Stenson, who added another double and a single for a three-hit day.

Miley ran out to question the call.

''You can beat it up as much as you want, but he made his call,'' Miley said. ''It's probably not the easiest call for an umpire to make.''

The Reds scored without a hit in the third after Miller walked the bases loaded. Reggie Taylor had an RBI groundout.

''I felt good coming in, but the heat got to me in the third inning,'' Miller said. ''I didn't help myself. The air was heavy. I went through three or four T-shirts.''

The Reds added a run off White in the seventh. Stenson led off with a double to deep center field and scored on a single by pinch-hitter Wily Mo Pena.

Notes: Stenson's start and hits were his first in the majors. … Stenson started in place of Adam Dunn, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb. … Etherton was called up from Triple-A Louisville to fill Dunn's roster spot. … Berkman's homer was his 19th against the Reds in 189 at-bats. … Houston avoided its first five-game losing streak since May 19-25, 2002.