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Winning continues to elude Arroyo

HOUSTON (AP) — Cincinnati Reds starter Bronson Arroyo entered Sunday’s game looking to get his first win in nearly a month.

Instead, the last pitch he threw was hit by Houston pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell for a two-run home run that helped the Astros to a 5-3 win.

“Those are the chess-match battles that go wrong sometimes,” Arroyo said. “It was a battle, but we just got beat.”

The first six innings looked a lot like many of Arroyo’s starts this season. He held the opponent close but didn’t get much run support. Despite entering the game with a 3.59 ERA, Arroyo (2-4) gave up a season-high five earned runs to remain winless since May 7.

It was Arroyo’s fourth consecutive start where the Reds failed to score four runs.

“I’ll take 15 next time out,” Arroyo joked. “Right now, it’s been tough to score two or three when I’ve been in the ballgame. It’s not like you can’t win with that run support, but it’s definitely a little tougher.”

After Maxwell’s home run pushed Houston’s lead to 5-2, Reds manager Dusty Baker pulled Arroyo. He allowed five runs and eight hits, while walking one and striking out four in 6 1-3 innings.

“Bronson hung a curveball, and boy, that hurt big time because it gave them a bigger lead,” Baker said of Maxwell’s homer.

Houston’s win snapped a season-worst eight-game skid.

Cincinnati’s hitters didn’t seem to have many answers for Astros starter Jordan Lyles, who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday night. In seven innings, Lyles (1-1) allowed two runs and five hits, while striking out three and walking two.

One of Lyles’ few mistakes came with two outs in the third inning when Cincinnati leadoff hitter Zack Cozart homered to left field, driving in Arroyo, who had the Reds’ first hit of the game.

Phillips put on a defensive show in the fourth inning with two nifty plays. The first came when he snagged a grounder by J.D. Martinez and twirled around to make the throw to first base. He then robbed Johnson of a hit when he stretched out for a diving catch to end the inning.

Cozart’s home run gave the Reds a 2-1 lead that lasted until the fifth inning when the Astros rallied. Houston led off the fifth with three straight singles from Brett Wallace, Jason Castro and Marwin Gonzalez, who picked up an RBI when Wallace scored. Two batters later, Jordan Schafer’s sacrifice fly gave the Astros a 3-2 lead.

Lyles got back on track after allowing the Cozart homer, and the Reds didn’t threaten again until the sixth inning. Drew Stubbs singled with one out before Phillips drew a two out walk. But Lyles retired Jay Bruce to end the inning.

After Maxwell’s home run, the Reds scored one more run, but wouldn’t get any closer. Todd Frazier led off that inning with a double to left, and Cozart followed with an infield single. After a strikeout by Stubbs, Joey Votto hit a flyball to deep center field. But Schafer sprinted to make the catch and limit the damage to a sacrifice fly.

Baker pointed to that play as a key to the game.

“I didn’t think it was out of the ballpark, but I thought it had a chance in the gap,” Baker said. “Schafer just ran the ball down and made another one of those plays.”

An error on that play allowed Cozart to advance to third, but Brandon Phillips grounded out to end the threat. Cozart went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

Astros closer Brett Myers retired the Reds in order in the ninth inning for his 13th save.

The loss prevented the Reds from sweeping Houston at home, and they finish their road trip 3-3. It was just their fifth loss in the last 15 games.

NOTES: Votto extended his hit streak to 10 games, going 1 for 2 with a walk and one RBI. He is 19 for 33 (.576) during that stretch. . Houston placed 1B Carlos Lee on the 15-day disabled list because of a left hamstring strain and recalled Wallace from Triple-A before Sunday’s game. It’s just the second time in his career that the 35-year-old Lee has been on the disabled list. He was injured running to first base on Friday night. . Both teams are off on Monday before Houston opens a series against St. Louis and Cincinnati hosts Pittsburgh on Tuesday.