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News » Reds-Astros Preview 2009-04-18

Reds-Astros Preview 2009-04-18

Reds-Astros Preview 2009-04-18
A dramatic comeback led the Cincinnati Reds to victory in their series opener in Houston on Friday night, but they were never behind the last time Aaron Harang was on the hill.

Harang will try to pitch a second straight shutout when the Reds continue their four-game set Saturday against the Astros, whose inconsistent offense has been the major cause of their poor start.

Coming off a poor season in which he lost a league-worst 17 games and allowed 35 home runs, Harang (1-1, 0.64 ERA) has had no such problems in 2009.

The big right-hander lost on opening day despite allowing just one run in five innings, but he didn't give up any Sunday against Pittsburgh, allowing three hits and striking out nine without a walk for his sixth career shutout as the Reds (5-4) won 2-0.

"They knew I was throwing strikes," Harang said. "I was hitting my spots on the outside corner, but keeping them honest on the inside part of the plate. They couldn't lean out over the plate."

Harang also got off to a strong start last season, when he held a 2.14 ERA through his first three starts. He's one of just three major league pitchers to throw a shutout this season.

"It's rare that you have a complete game that early," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "It shows you what kind of shape he's in."

Houston's bats have yet to round into midseason form. The Astros (3-7) rank last in the majors with 27 runs scored, and they managed just four hits - all singles - in their 2-1 loss in Friday's series opener.

Cincinnati still trailed in the ninth inning of that game, but Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run home run off Astros closer Jose Valverde to send the Reds to their fourth win in their last five games.

"This would have been a real tough loss," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They didn't really deserve to win it but they were winning in the ninth."

Valverde had missed Thursday's game with a back injury, but he said that wasn't a factor.

"Everything is fine, I am OK," Valverde said. "The guy just hit a home run. What else am I going to do? It was a fastball and I threw my best pitch to this guy, and he hit it.

"Tomorrow is a new day."

The Astros, who won 12 of 15 against Cincinnati last year, will try to rebound behind Wandy Rodriguez.

The left-hander has pitched well this season, but is still looking for his first victory thanks to a lack of run support. Houston has scored two runs in the 12 innings that Rodriguez (0-1, 3.00) has pitched.

Rodriguez gave up three runs and five hits in six innings of a 3-0 loss at St. Louis on Sunday.

"We hit probably two or three balls hard all day, and that won't get it," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said after that game. "We know we're a better offensive team than we have shown."

But the middle of Houston's lineup continues to struggle. Carlos Lee is 2-for-18 with no walks in his last five games, while Lance Berkman is 3-for-19 with seven strikeouts in his last six contests.

Berkman hopes it will help to face Harang, against whom he has six home runs in 42 career at-bats.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 18, 2009

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