CINCINNATI (AP) — Though the plot changes a little, the outcome never does. No matter how things are going or who's been slumping, the Houston Astros get to Cincinnati and win.
They've been doing it for three seasons.
Lance Berkman hit his 20th homer at Great American Ball Park, the most by any visiting player, and Hunter Pence hit a tiebreaking double in the ninth inning Monday night, leading the Astros to a 4-1 victory over the Reds.
Pence's two-run double off Francisco Cordero (0-1) broke a 1-all tie and sent the Astros to their 10th straight win at Great American, a streak that started near the end of 2007 and is the longest such stretch in the majors.
Naturally, Berkman had a hand in it, hitting a solo homer in the sixth off Johnny Cueto. The opposite-field shot snapped his 0-for-16 slump and left him with more career homers (46) and RBIs (127) against Cincinnati than any other team.
Even when he can't seem to get a hit, he'll hit one here.
"It's kind of funny," said Berkman, who is batting .174. "It seems that even when I'm struggling, I start feeling better and I look up at the schedule and we have a trip in here. It's weird how that happens."
Weird? More like a certainty. Houston is 31-15-1 at Great American, which opened for the 2003 season.
The only surprise for the Astros was that Roy Oswalt couldn't add to his 23-1 career mark against Cincinnati. The right-hander gave up only Joey Votto's RBI single in seven innings, leaving with the game tied. Chris Sampson (2-0) got the last four outs, saving a bullpen that's missing its closer indefinitely.
For the first time in his career, Oswalt has gone two straight starts without beating the Reds. He has two no-decisions against them this season despite pitching well.
"I want to win, like everyone else," said Oswalt, who allowed six hits. "I'm not pitching 20 years to go to the Hall of Fame. As long as the team wins, that's what I'm here to do."
Oswalt escaped the Reds' biggest threat in the sixth, when Cincinnati loaded the bases with two outs.
"Roy Oswalt was the story of the game," Pence said. "He pitched an unbelievable game, kept us in it."
Miguel Tejada had three hits for the Astros, including a single that set up the ninth-inning rally off Cordero. Pence hit a ball into the gap in right-center to drive in two runs, and later scored on Geoff Blum's sacrifice fly.
"You're going to have days like that," Cordero said. "I'm not happy about it because of the way Johnny was pitching. He gave the team a chance to win the game. He had an unbelievable game, and Oswalt was unbelievable against us."
The Astros are without closer Jose Valverde, who has spent the last week fighting through a strained right calf. The calf was swollen again on Monday, a day after he pitched the ninth inning of a 3-2 win over Milwaukee. The team will see how he responds to a couple of days off before deciding whether to put him on the disabled list.
Manager Cecil Cooper plans to use a variety of relievers in the closer's role, depending upon which batters are due up.
Notes:@ Jason Bay has the second-most homers by a visitor at Great American with 14. ... Houston RHP Brandon Backe pitched four innings for Triple-A Round Rock on Monday night, giving up two hits while throwing 63 pitches. It was his first rehab start while recovering from a strained muscle in his left side. ... Reds LF Chris Dickerson bumped heads with Astros SS Tejada while sliding into second in the fourth. Both players rubbed the sides of their heads and stayed in the game. Dickerson left an inning later after showing symptoms of a concussion. ... Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion went hitless and is in a 1-for-28 slump.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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