With runners at first and second and one out in the fifth inning, Brandon Barnes hit a smash to third base that looked like it would be an extra-base hit, with one run, and perhaps two runs, scoring.
Instead, Reds third baseman Todd Frazier snared the hard-hit ball and his throw to second base resulted in a force out. The Astros loaded the bases that inning without scoring and remained six runs behind.
It was that kind of night for the Astros, who hit the ball hard with little to show for it in a 6-1 loss on Monday at Minute Maid Park. The Astros’ third straight loss dropped their record to 51-99.
“Sometimes you hit the ball hard you get a hit, sometimes you hit the ball hard, and they make a good play, or you hit it right at people,” said Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who had two hits, but struck out for the third out in that fifth inning, stranding three runners on base.
Astros first baseman Brett Wallace hit a couple of long fly outs, one in the sixth inning, and another in the eighth inning.
“We barreled a lot of balls up, I think they just made a lot of good plays,” said Barnes. “Wallace hit two really good shots up in center field, and got under them a little. I hit the ball hard down the line and Frazier made a good play.”
And the way Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto was pitching, as well as relievers Alfredo Simon and Logan Ondrusek, there weren’t going to be a lot of opportunities for the Astros, who matched the Reds with seven hits each.
“He (Cueto) made some good pitches and got them to expand the zone, once he got to two strikes, and got the big out,” said Astros manager Bo Porter. “We had chances to chop at their lead, but unfortunately their pitchers made good pitches during those times. On the balls we did hit hard, they were able to make the plays.”
Cueto came off the 60-day disabled list on Monday. It was the right-hander’s first appearance since June 28 versus Texas. He went on the DL with a right lat injury.
“He’s like fresh right now,” said Altuve, who has 29 hits in September. “His pitches were good.”
Cueto (5-2) pitched five scoreless innings, allowing five hits.
“He definitely was hitting his spots and doing what he wanted to do,” said Barnes.
Zack Cozart had four RBIs, including a two-run home run in the second inning off Astros starter Erik Bedard (4-11), who was starting for the first time since Aug. 21. Bedard struck out four of his first six batters before Cozart connected for his 11th home run of the season.
“Early on I was throwing a lot of strikes,” said Bedard. “Just trying to get ahead and get them out quickly.”
Bedard pitched four inning, allowing four runs, and Lucas Harrell pitched the final five innings. Harrell, who saved the bullpen with his long relief outing, allowed two runs but none over his final four innings.
Trevor Crowe scored Houston’s only run. After leading off the sixth with a double off Simon, Crowe scored on a Matt Dominguez ground out.