Lee's clutch hit wins it for Astros
Rally in 10th inning carries Houston over Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- Bring up Carlos Lee's name in the Astros' clubhouse, and the first word uttered is "clutch."
Lee proved worthy of that label on Friday night at Great American Ball Park, when he launched a tie-breaking two-run double in the 10th inning that led to a 9-5 win over the Reds.
"I'll tell you what," manager Cecil Cooper said. "The last couple of months, I don't think there's been a better player in baseball. Offensively, but I think defensively, too. He's played just outstanding."
Cooper may have a point. Lee topped his .301 June with a .371 July, and through eight games in August, the red-hot slugger is hitting .500, logging at least one hit in every game. He's contributed seven hits in the first two games against the Reds, both of them wins.
Lee recorded four hits on Friday. He knocked a solo homer off Johnny Cueto in the first inning, but it was his two-out two-run double to center off Francisco Cordero in the 10th that sealed the win.
Miguel Tejada set up the inning with a two-out double to left-center, which Lance Berkman followed with a walk. That paved the way for Lee, whose RBIs were Nos. 1,000 and 1,001 of his career.
"That's the one thing I really concentrate on in the game -- every time I have people on base, I don't try to do too much," Lee said. "I take what the game gives me. I'm fortunate to have a lot of success in my career, and I thank God I've been healthy. That's the main thing -- stay healthy and be able to go out there every day and compete."
Lee's double was hit well to center, but with Corey Patterson on the run, Lee wasn't completely confident the ball would drop. Patterson has made several spectacular catches this series, including one on a Humberto Quintero fly ball that he nabbed while leaping into the center-field wall.
So when Lee saw Patterson scampering toward the same area in the 10th inning, he held his breath.
"Once I hit the ball, I thought for sure it was in the gap," he said. "When [Patterson] dove for that ball, I was like, 'Noooo!' But I tell you what, when things are working out for you, anything can happen."
Hunter Pence followed Lee's double with a two-run homer to left, making the bottom of the 10th much less stressful for Wesley Wright, who retired three straight to solidify the win.
Chris Sampson earned the win after contributing three innings following Randy Wolf's departure. Sampson entered the game with the Astros ahead, 5-4, but the Reds tied the game on a Jeff Keppinger sacrifice fly after David Ross doubled and moved to third on Jolbert Cabrera's pinch-hit single.
Sampson induced a double play to end the inning and did so again to end the ninth after walking Patterson on four pitches.
"I was a little frustrated I gave up the lead for Wolfie, but the best thing I could do is keep them there, and that was my goal after I blew the lead," Sampson said. "Keep them there and give us a chance to win the game."
Said Cooper: "When [Sampson's] down in the strike zone, he's pretty good. Tonight I thought he made only one bad pitch, and it ended up being a sac fly. Other than that, he pitched very well."
Kazuo Matsui put the Astros on the board as soon as the game began when he launched a home run off Cueto. Lee's homer, his 28th, gave the Astros a 2-0 lead.
But the Reds roared back in the third. Wolf issued a leadoff walk to the No. 8 hitter, Ross, and had runners on first and second when he overthrew to second on Cueto's bunt. Keppinger drove in both runners with a double to deep center, and three batters later, Brandon Phillips launched his 17th homer of the season to put the Reds ahead, 4-2.
The Astros had myriad scoring opportunities over the next three innings but capitalized only once. Lee singled in the fifth and scored on a Michael Bourn base hit to left, narrowing the Astros' deficit to 4-3. The Astros took the lead in the seventh when Quintero, who turned 29 on Friday, knocked his first home run of the season.
"I was a little worried tonight," Cooper said. "We stranded so many guys, I think it was a dozen or so. Early on, we stranded quite a few, and even late, too. Sometimes those things come back to bite you, but tonight it didn't. We got contributions from everyone, really."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.