Berkman enjoys trip back to GABP with winning hit
CINCINNATI — Lance Berkman couldn’t leave his favorite road ballpark without a big hit.
The Cincinnati Reds gave him one too many chances to get one.
Berkman had a two-run double in the 10th inning after hitting into two double plays and ending another threat with a groundout, and the Houston Astros salvaged the finale of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds with a 2-0 win Sunday.
“I had a lot of chances to drive some guys in,” Berkman said. “I feel like I had some pretty good at-bats. I knew if I just kept going up there, eventually some would fall in, and it happened to fall in.”
Reliever Micah Owings (3-1) walked pinch-hitter Cory Sullivan and Michael Bourn with one out. Jeff Keppinger popped out foul to third baseman Scott Rolen before Berkman — 2-for-9 in the series going into the at-bat — hit Owings’ first pitch into the right-field corner.
“I’m glad I made it into second base after dragging through 150-degree humidity it seemed like,” Berkman said. “It’s what I’m supposed to do. I was glad that I had the chance to win the game. It’s tough. It gets frustrating.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker knew the switch-hitter would be difficult to keep off the bases for an entire series.
“If you keep putting them out there, he’s going to come through,” Baker said. “I know he was struggling, but he’s a quality hitter. He’s dangerous.”
Brandon Lyon (1-1) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth — the only time the Reds got a runner to third base — to preserve the tie. Orlando Cabrera flied out to right fielder Hunter Pence to end the threat.
Matt Lindstrom pitched the 10th for his 11th save in 12 tries for Houston, which had lost three in a row and six out of seven.
The Reds, who’d won four straight and five of six, saw their streak of consecutive games with at least one home run snapped at 18 — third-longest in franchise history. The loss was their first in five extra-inning games this season.
Houston got leadoff singles in each of the first three innings, but the Astros hit into a double play each time — twice by Berkman — to help Reds starter Mike Leake wriggle off the hook.
Berkman, who leads all opposing players with 21 home runs at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, also grounded out with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
Center fielder Laynce Nix threw out Pence trying to go from second to third on Tommy Manzella’s fly out in the second inning.
“We have such a great defense,” Leake said. “I don’t want to say you expect it, but you know they’re going to do something for you.”
Leake finished with six scoreless innings, allowing seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts while pitching in humid, mid-80 degree conditions.
“I wasn’t struggling,” he said. “I just didn’t have my stuff, and I was trying to get adapted to the weather. Being from the West Coast and playing (college baseball) in Arizona, I’m not used to this.”
Houston starter Felipe Paulino retired the first eight batters he faced before walking Paul Janish, who promptly was caught stealing. Leake then grounded a single to left, just out of the backhand reach of Manzella at shortstop, for Cincinnati’s first hit.
Paulino allowed just three runners as far as second base in a career-high eight innings. He gave up four hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
“This was my first time that I reached eight innings, but I feel good,” he said. “I feel great. I just put everything to win the game.”
Houston manager Brad Mills went to the mound in the eighth inning after Paulino walked the leadoff batter on four pitches, but Paulino had thrown just 95 pitches, so Mills left him in the game.
“You can’t say enough about the way he threw the ball today,” Mills said. “The low pitch count, going after the hitters with the stuff that he’s got and wanting to stay out there, it was special. I went out there and I wanted him to want it. The progress he’s made in the last few games was leaps and bounds. I was going to get him, but he’d given his heart and soul. It was his game.”
NOTES: After playing the ninth inning in center field on Saturday, Nix made his first start of the season at that position Sunday for Cincinnati. … Leake went into the game hitting .368 (7 for 19). … Paulino, who had one hit all last season, had two Sunday to push his season total to seven. … Houston C Humberto Quintero was hit in the left elbow by a pitch in the top of the seventh inning and took a foul tip square off of his catcher’s mask in the bottom of the inning, but he stayed in the game.
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