Astros squeeze past Reds

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 3, 2004

HOUSTON - Brad Ausmus came to the plate in the eighth inning of a tie game with runners on second and third, and knew exactly what to expect: a suicide squeeze.

''I had a feeling that we were going to call it at that point,'' Ausmus said. ''It was the right place for it.''

Ausmus' squeeze scored Lance Berkman and capped a three-run rally, giving the Houston Astros a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

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Ausmus' only other suicide squeeze during his 11-year major league career was when he played in San Diego, and was also successful.

''I know he can bunt. It is not something that he is not familiar with,'' Houston manager Jimy Williams said.

''I tried to steal it straight up, but Brad went ahead and bunted,'' Berkman said jokingly. ''If he misses the bunt, you are out. That is why they call it the suicide squeeze.''

The Astros trailed 5-3 when they loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth on consecutive singles off Todd Jones by Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent and Berkman. Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb followed with a two-run single before Ausmus' run-scoring bunt.

''You don't see that happen often. I thought Ausmus did a heck of a job getting that bunt down,'' Cincinnati manager Dave Miley said. ''I thought Jones threw the ball well, but a couple of strong guys got the ball out of the infield and then Lamb got a broken bat hit that found its way up the middle. There's not much more to say.''

The victory is Houston's fourth straight, while the Reds have lost five in a row.

Dan Miceli (1-1) allowed one run and one hit in two relief innings, and Octavio Dotel earned his fourth save in as many opportunities with a scoreless ninth.

Jones (1-1) took the loss, giving up three runs on four hits in one inning.

Houston cut its deficit to 4-3 in the fourth on an RBI double by Bagwell and a two-run home run by Kent, his third of the season.

Adam Dunn hit his ninth homer in the eighth for the Reds to make it 5-3.

Cincinnati took a 2-0 lead in the second inning after Sean Casey led off with a single and moved to second when Dunn walked. Brandon Larson drove in Casey with a double, and Dunn scored on a sacrifice fly by Javier Valentin.

The Reds increased their lead to 3-0 in the third when Ryan Freel was hit by at pitch, stole second and scored when Ken Griffey Jr. singled and right fielder Richard Hidalgo mishandled the ball for an error.

Cincinnati took a 4-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI double by Valentin that brought on Brandon Backe in relief of starter Tim Redding.

Notes: Craig Biggio is seven hits away from becoming the first Astro and the 80th major leaguer to record 2,500 hits. … Miceli pitched 12 2-3 innings over 11 appearances without giving up an earned run until Dunn's homer. … Cincinnati pitchers allowed less than 10 hits for the first time in nine games Sunday. … Biggio was hit by a pitch for the 245th time in his career Sunday, the most ever in the NL and second all-time to Don Baylor (267). … Freel left in the eighth inning with neck spasms.