Reds right-hander Homer Bailey, a La Grange, Texas native, returned from the 15-day disabled list and made his first start of the 2011 campaign Thursday in the rubber game of the series against the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park, allowing just one earned run on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts over six innings to lead Cincinnati to a 10-4 victory.
Bailey (1-0) developed a shoulder impingement toward the end of Spring Training, but his much-anticipated return to the starting rotation provides an instant boost to the defending NL Central champions.
The 24-year-old right-hander received plenty of run support right off the bat, as the Reds built a 4-0 lead off Astros ace Brett Myers by the fifth inning.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan, who went 3-for-4, got the Reds on the scoreboard with a second-inning RBI single, and later struck again with a two-run single in the fourth.
Veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria, the 2010 World Series MVP as a member of the San Francisco Giants, recorded an RBI single in the fifth.
Hunter Pence, who extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games, cut into the lead with an RBI double in the sixth, making it 4-1.
However, the Reds were able to knock Myers out of the game prior to completing the sixth inning, as Rice University product Paul Janish hit a sacrifice fly, which set the stage for Fred Lewis’ first career pinch-hit solo home run — giving Cincinnati a 6-1 lead.
Myers (1-2) allowed six earned runs on nine hits with three walks and four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings to earn his second loss of the season.
It marks just the second time in his 40 career starts with the Astros in which the 30-year-old Myers failed to record at least six innings.
“It didn’t appear that [Brett] Myers had his best stuff,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “It was sure nice to see him battle all the way through it. Hanigan got those two big hits against him in the second and the fourth. Again, it was great to see Myers work through it.”
Before Mills had to pull Myers, he found himself standing up for Bill Hall in the top of the sixth after the second baseman was ejected by home-plate umpire Tom Hallon for saying something while walking as the result of striking out against Bailey.
“I wanted to make sure that things were settled, and that he wasn’t going to go any further with everything,” Mills said regarding his conversation with Hallon. “The inning before with C.J. [Chris Johnson] got a little heated, and with Bill Hall, we saw what happened there. I wanted to make sure that everything was going be copacetic as we went on in the ballgame.”
The Astros sparked a three-run rally in the seventh against left-handed fireballer Aroldis Chapman, who surrendered a bases-loaded walk to Jason Bourgeois, followed by a two-run single to Hunter Pence, thus forcing manager Dusty Baker to make a pitching change with the Reds barely clinging to a 6-4 lead.
Bill Bray was able to retire cleanup hitter Brett Wallace to end the inning.
“It was great to see the guys battle back in the seventh,” Mills said. “We got the tying run to second with a chance to tie the thing up with a base hit.”
Cincinnati retaliated with a four-run eighth, as Jay Bruce belted a solo homer off Nelson Figueroa to set the stage for additional damage.
University of Texas product Drew Stubbs cracked an RBI double to score Hanigan, while Chris Heisey connected for a sacrifice fly.
Renteria’s second RBI single of the game made it 10-4.
The win Thursday gave the Reds, who jumped out to a 5-0 record to start the season, their first back-to-back victories since April 11-12.
For Houston, they missed out on an opportunity to win their second straight series when closer Brandon Lyon allowed three runs in the ninth without retiring a single batter in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss.
Lyon returned to Houston on Thursday to meet with team medical director Dr. David Lintner, and was ultimately placed on the 15-day disabled list with biceps tendinitis and a partial rotator cuff tear.
The Astros will look to get back on track in the opener of a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Wandy Rodriguez (1-3, 4.26 ERA) gets the starting nod on Friday for Houston versus fellow southpaw Paul Maholm (1-4, 4.14 ERA).
Slugger Carlos Lee, who missed the entire Reds series due to bruised ribs, worked out Thursday and could return to action at Pittsburgh.
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