HOUSTON (AP) - At almost any other time this season Cincinnati's three-time Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips would have been there to retrieve the routine grounder Houston's Jose Altuve hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning on Saturday night.
Instead Phillips had been ejected an inning before, and his replacement Wilson Valdez watched it roll between his legs and send the winning run home to give the Astros a 2-1 victory.
``That is every ball players' nightmare right there, but that is going to happen,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``It's going to happen to everybody. Wilson is a very sure-handed fielder, and that has probably happened to him just a handful of times in his whole life.'
Pinch-hitter Matt Downs doubled off the left field wall with two outs in the ninth. Sean Marshall (4-5) intentionally walked Matt Dominguez before hitting pinch-hitter Brandon Barnes to load the bases before Altuve's grounder.
Phillips was ejected in the eighth inning after arguing a call. He was tossed after jawing with plate umpire Andy Fletcher on a called third strike on what Phillips thought should have been a check swing.
Phillips protested somewhat calmly for a minute before getting more heated and having to be pulled away by Baker.
``You know, he had a rough night, and there were some questionable calls,' Baker said of Phillips. ``He came in after the game, and he felt terrible about it. But, these things happen. You don't like them, but they happen. These games are emotional, and we just have to put this one behind us.'
He was gone from the clubhouse by the time reporters were allowed in after the game, but tweeted an apology.
It started with a hashtag with the phrase ``realtalk' and ended with a hashtag followed by ``human.'
``Apologize to my fans, team, (and) also the umpires for actions tonight,' he tweeted. ``Not like me, but that's how I felt at the time!!!!'
Valdez was disappointed he couldn't make the play.
``That is just part of the game; what can you do? I made an error, we lost the game, and I feel mad because we lost the game because I made the error,' he said.
Wilton Lopez (6-3) got the last two outs in the ninth inning for the win.
Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs hit consecutive singles to get things going for the Reds in the first inning. Phillips grounded into a forceout that left Stubbs out at second and the Reds went up 1-0 on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Ludwick.
The Astros mustered only three hits against Reds starter Homer Bailey, who entered the game 2-0 in three starts against Houston. Unfortunately for Bailey and the Reds, one of those knocks was a solo homer by Justin Maxwell which tied it in the fourth inning.
Baker was unhappy that his team couldn't get much offense going to back up Bailey.
``We sure wanted to get him a win because it seems like he has been stuck on 10 for a while,' Baker said of Bailey, who hasn't won since Aug. 10. ``But your heart just sinks into your stomach. That happens, but we'll stick by Wilson. Nobody feels worse than him.'
The homer continued a streak of hot hitting for Maxwell in games where rookie Lucas Harrell is the starter. Maxwell has 13 homers this season and seven have come when Harrell is on the mound.
Bailey was one strikeout shy of his career high by fanning nine Astros with one walk in eight innings.
Fernando Martinez singled with one out in the second inning. Bailey retired seven straight after that before Maxwell's shot to right field tied it at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
He hit Martinez after Maxwell's homer before getting back on track and sitting down the next 10 straight, including striking out the side in the seventh.
Harrell pitched seven solid innings, yielding seven hits and one run with three strikeouts. He was lifted for Hector Ambriz in the eighth inning and he retired the side.
NOTES: Injured Reds 1B Joey Votto made three rehabilitation appearances for Class A Dayton and went 1 for 3 with a homer for Triple-A Louisville on Saturday night. ... Houston claimed INF Brandon Laird off waivers from the Yankees before Saturday's game. ... The Reds recalled RHP Logan Ondrusek, INFS Didi Gregorius and Henry Rodriguez and OF Denis Phipps from Louisville on Saturday.
The Associated Press News Service
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