Moehler roughed up as Astros fall to Reds
Righty yields seven runs in 2 1/3 frames; Matsui homers
HOUSTON -- Astros interim manager Dave Clark didn't try to make excuses Friday night and neither did veteran right-hander Brian Moehler.
The Cincinnati Reds continued their domination of the Astros by bashing out 17 hits, including eight in the 2 1/3 innings Moehler was on the mound, to send Houston to its 10th loss in 11 games, 10-4, in the series opener at Minute Maid Park.
The loss ensured the Astros (71-82) of their second losing season in three years and marked their eighth consecutive setback to the Reds, who have their longest winning streak over the Astros since reeling off 11 games in a row in 1995. Houston fell into fifth place in the National League Central.
"I can't figure out what it is about the Cincinnati Reds this year," Clark said. "We're just having a real hard time. They've got a good group of young kids over there, and they play well. They go up there and take their swings, that's for sure. They're not up there to take walks. They work the count, and if you leave pitches up over the plate, they do some damage to it."
Moehler (8-11) lost for the sixth time in seven decisions and hasn't won a game in his past six starts. He gave up eight hits and seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings and is 1-6 with a 5.63 ERA in his past 12 starts.
"I just didn't have it tonight," Moehler said. "There's no excuse. The balls were up, and I felt fine. It was just one of those nights that I didn't have it."
Joey Votto homered off Moehler in the first to make it 1-0, and the Reds sent nine batters to the plate in the second and scored five runs on five hits to take a 6-0 lead, including a bases-loaded double by Votto that scored three. For the third time in four games, the Astros were forced to try to dig out of a huge early hole.
"It's a little tough when you're always trying to fight from behind," Clark said. "If you go back and watch that game, you see that Moehler was ahead of a lot of hitters and he just had a tough time tonight putting them away. I thought the walk to the pitcher worked against us and worked for them, especially when he had him 0-2 [count].
"It was just one of those nights for him. I'm not going to say he shied away from contact, but he may have started nibbling a little bit and not trusting his stuff. He is one of those guys that has a real good breaking ball and makes guys put the ball on the ground. It just didn't work for him."
The walk to Reds pitcher Matt Maloney came with two outs in the second and loaded the bases for Paul Janish, who ripped an RBI single one at-bat before Votto's three-run double that made it 6-0.
"If you really analyze it, he did a great job of getting ahead of hitters and getting two strikes, but he just didn't finish," Astros catcher Chris Coste said. "I'm sure he'll probably say the same thing. He located early in the counts and made great pitches and kind of made them look silly at times. It was just one of those days he didn't execute that third strike or get an out with two strikes. It was one of those weird things."
Kazuo Matsui hit his career-high eighth homer in the second, but the Reds' offensive machine didn't stop. Cincinnati led, 7-1, in the third and took a 10-1 lead in the sixth after a two-run, bases-loaded single by Wladimir Balentien. Lance Berkman belted a 402-foot homer in the eighth -- his sixth in his past 12 games -- that landed on the railroad track and capped the scoring at 10-4.
Maloney (2-4) allowed two runs and six hits in a career-high seven innings in just his seventh Major League start.
"I think it was really he pitched well because as much baseball we've all played, sometimes it can be really difficult to pitch in that situation," Coste said. "Guys will say, 'Oh, I had a lead and I was comfortable.' But really a lot of times that's the toughest position to be in, because you relax and you're like, 'OK, I've got this game,' and you look up and you've given up four or five runs.
"He didn't throw overly hard. If anything, he was throwing under the radar. We're used to every day seeing guys throwing 90, 97 [mph], and he was topping out -- I think he hit 87 -- but he was at 81, 82. For him, it worked, unfortunately for us."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.