Reds get plenty of good news in win over Astros

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 2004

HOUSTON - Ken Griffey Jr. walked briskly out of the clubhouse without saying a word. The oft-injured center fielder moved without even the slightest hint of a limp.

That was another bit of good news for the Cincinnati Reds on a night when they finally snapped an embarrassing slump.

Backup catcher Javier Valentin hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Reds snapped a five-game losing streak Monday night, beating the Houston Astros 7-5 despite losing Griffey to a stiff right hamstring.

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''It's been a long trip. It's nice to get this one and to win it that way,'' Reds manager Dave Miley said. ''We've had some tough losses.''


Cincinnati had lost leads in each of its previous five defeats, including a 6-5 loss at Houston on Sunday that particularly dampened the spirits of the team.

Things were so bad in Cincinnati's clubhouse that shortstop Barry Larkin held a players-only meeting in an attempt to bolster the team's sagging morale.

Apparently, it worked.

''This win showed a lot of character,'' said Jacob Cruz, who hit a two-run double. ''We could have folded. If we had let this one get away, it would have been tough.''

The Reds looked like they might be forced to deal with a loss of a different kind when Griffey left in the third inning after striking out against Roy Oswalt. Griffey was replaced by Jason Romano in the bottom of the third and is day-to-day.

It's the latest setback for the injury-prone star who missed the first two games of the season after straining his right calf while running out a grounder in spring training.

A string of serious injuries the past three years has limited a player who made the All-Century team before returning to his hometown for the 2000 season.

Griffey has really been struggling this season, hitting .228 with three homers and 14 RBIs. He hasn't homered in 64 at-bats, his longest drought since going 79 at-bats without a homer in 1993.

After the game, Reds head trainer Mark Mann said Griffey would be evaluated by team doctors Tuesday. Griffey didn't seem bothered by his gimpy hamstring at all as he quickly exited the clubhouse.

Regardless, Cincinnati didn't need him Monday night.

Valentin put Cincinnati ahead 6-5 with a home run off Brad Lidge (0-1). D'Angelo Jimenez added a solo shot in the ninth for the Reds, who ended Houston's four-game winning streak and went 4-6 on their longest road trip of the season.

Cincinnati had to rally to get this win, especially after starter Paul Wilson stumbled in the sixth.

Raul Chavez doubled in two runs and Craig Biggio added an RBI single, putting Houston up 5-4.

But Valentin's soaring shot to right-center gave the Reds a 6-5 lead. The ball dropped right into the Astros' bullpen - appropriately enough.

''We had a tough week. We needed this game,'' Valentin said. ''To come back and win this game will give us a winning streak. It's going to be different now.''

Jimenez homered to right field in the ninth and Danny Graves got three outs for his major league-leading 11th save in 14 chances.

John Riedling (1-0) earned the win, allowing two hits in 1 1-3 innings.

Oswalt, who is 8-0 in 12 career appearances against the Reds, had a shaky outing.

The right-hander allowed two-run doubles to Sean Casey and Cruz. Oswalt went six innings, allowing six hits and striking out seven. He left trailing 4-2.

''I couldn't find the feel all night,'' Oswalt said. ''The ball was just flying out of my hand.

''I felt better in the third and fourth innings, but then I kind of lost it again after that. It was bad all around.''