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HOU@CIN: Altuve's two hits, two RBIs pave way to win

CINCINNATI -- You know it was a good night for the Astros and left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez when he was happy to discuss the one that got away on Friday night. Reds first baseman Joey Votto laced an RBI double on the 14th pitch of his sixth-inning at-bat against Rodriguez.

"He took everything I had," Rodriguez said.

Votto won that battle, but Rodriguez won the war.

Jose Altuve went 2-for-5 with a triple, double, and two RBIs in support of Rodriguez, who gave up just two runs on six hits in six innings, lifting Houston to a 6-4 victory over the Reds to begin a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.

Rodriguez walked two and struck out six. He retired seven consecutive batters in one stretch, four via strikeout.

"I felt really good," said Rodriguez. "I was hitting my spots with my fastball. I felt comfortable using all my pitches tonight."

On a cool, crisp night before 29,486 fans, the Astros' offense heated things up, and made things easier on Rodriguez by building an early 6-0 lead.

"We were able to keep scoring, but the big thing was the two-out hits," said Astros manager Brad Mills. "That's one of the things we've been looking for."

Jason Castro, who returned to the lineup Friday night after missing two games with a sore neck and head following a collision at home plate on Monday, singled leading off the third and later scored on Altuve's triple. Jay Bruce made a diving attempt of Altuve's sinking liner, but the ball skipped past the Reds' right fielder and rolled to the wall allowing Castro to score the Astros' first run. J.D. Martinez followed with a single to make the score 2-0.

Martinez is hitting .313 (5-for-16) on the road trip with four RBI. He's hit safely in 16 of his 19 games this season.

In the fourth, Jed Lowrie led off with a double and Brian Bogusevic reached on a fielding error by second baseman Brandon Phillips. Chris Johnson followed with an RBI double, making the score 3-0.

Jordan Schafer's two-out RBI single put the Astros ahead 5-0. Altuve's double into the right-field corner off Alfredo Simon scored Schafer, giving Houston a six-run advantage.

Schafer now has reached base in all 20 games this season, the longest stretch by an Astros player to begin a season since Ricky Gutierrez, who had a 23-game run in 1998.

The Astros roughed up Cincinnati starter Mike Leake, who allowed six runs, three earned, in 3 2/3 innings.

"I gave them a couple of good pitches to hit," Leake said. "They were swinging early against me and I wasn't making good pitches."

It wasn't all good news for the Astros on Friday night, however. First baseman Carlos Lee sprained his left ankle on the first play of the Reds first and did not return. Lee planted his foot awkwardly trying to dig out a low throw from Chris Johnson on a slow roller by leadoff batter Zack Cozart. Lee left the game, and his status is day to day.

Todd Frazier's triple with two outs in the fifth drove home Bruce for the Reds' first run.

Rodriguez engaged in his 14-pitch duel with Votto in the sixth, and the Reds first baseman emerged the victor by lacing an RBI double to left-center to make the score 6-2.

Things got dicey for the Astros in the ninth. Fernando Abad, who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to Friday's game, allowed consecutive solo homers on back-to-back pitches to Bruce and Devin Mesoraco to cut Houston's lead to two.

Could've been worse. The first batter Abad faced, Scott Rolen, was retired on a fly ball to the warning track in center.

But Brett Myers cooled the Reds' rally by retiring the final two batters to record his fourth save.

"They got some two-out RBI hits and they bunched them," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "You can't spot Wandy Rodriguez too big a lead. And we couldn't go through our whole bullpen that early either."

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