CINCINNATI (AP) — Justin Verlander gives up a lot of fly balls. Great American Ball Park yields a lot of home runs. The Cincinnati Reds took advantage of the combination to finally win a series.
Jesse Winker and Derek Dietrich homered off Verlander in the first inning Tuesday night, and the Reds held on for a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros that clinched their first series win in nearly a month.
By taking the first two games, the Reds won a series for the first time since May 24-26, when they took two of three from the Cubs. The Astros hadn’t dropped a series since April 29-May 2.
“The results are great,” manager David Bell said. “We’ve talked about getting on a streak, but we’ve been playing good teams. We’re raising our level of expectations to do what it takes to win games.”
The homer made the difference, as the Reds hit three off Verlander (9-3) for all their runs.
The Reds quickly got to Verlander, who hadn’t allowed a pair of homers in one inning all season. Winker connected on Verlander’s fourth pitch, the third leadoff homer allowed by the right-hander this season. Joey Votto’s double and Dietrich’s first homer since May 28 made it 3-0.
“Picking up a three-spot is always good, no matter who you’re facing, but especially against a pitcher like Verlander, where there’s no room for error,” Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani said.
Kyle Farmer added a homer in the seventh off Verlander, who has given up three homers in each of his last two starts. Verlander went seven innings and struck out eight.
He’s allowed 20 homers, 17 of them solo shots. In his last two starts, he’s given up 10 hits, six of them homers. His career high for homers allowed in a season is 30 with Detroit in 2016.
“Maybe I could throw less strikes, but I’m someone who traditionally wants to attack the (strike) zone and not let too many guys on base, so I kind of live and die by that,” Verlander said.
Asked what he could do to cut down on homers, Verlander said, “Invent a sinker? I don’t know.”
DeSclafani (4-3) pitched into the sixth inning and remained unbeaten in June. He gave up six hits, including Yordan Alvarez’s RBI double with one out in the sixth that cut it to 3-1 and ended his outing. Alex Bregman hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Amir Garrett.
Closer Raisel Iglesias was used in a setup role again, fanning two in the eighth. Michael Lorenzen retired the side in order in the ninth for his second straight save and fourth overall.
The Astros stranded 10 batters — six in scoring position — while also losing the series opener 4-3. They stranded five in scoring position Tuesday and had three double plays that scuttled rallies.
Verlander passed Mickey Lolich for 19th place on the career strikeout list with 2,839. Up next is Jim Bunning at 2,855.
RAINY DAYS AND TUESDAYS
The start of the game was delayed 28 minutes because of storms in the area. There was a 52-minute storm delay in Monday’s game.
Votto had a pair of doubles for the first time since June 17 last season at Pittsburgh. Votto has 385 career doubles, four shy of Davey Concepcion for third place on the Reds list. Pete Rose had 601 and Barry Larkin had 441.
Astros: 2B Jose Altuve will be activated for the final game of the series. The 2017 AL MVP has been sidelined since May 11 by a strained left hamstring. … OF George Springer is expected to start a rehab assignment Thursday with Double-A Corpus Christi. He’s been out since May 25, also with a strained left hamstring.
Reds: LHP Alex Wood threw 20 pitches in batting practice. He could start a rehab assignment next week. Wood has been sidelined since spring training by a bad back. … 2B Scooter Gennett was held out of a game at Single-A Daytona on Tuesday because the field was wet. Gennett is on a rehab assignment as he recovers from a severe groin injury in spring training.
Astros: Gerrit Cole (6-5) leads the majors with 140 strikeouts. He fanned 10 in his last start, a 15-2 win over Toronto on Friday.
Reds: Tyler Mahle (2-7) is coming off his shortest stint of the season, 4 1/3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Texas on Friday. He complained afterward about getting removed from games too quickly.