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HOU@SD: Harrell fans six over seven strong innings

The matchup on paper has to look rather appealing for Cincinnati.

The Reds enter Tuesday's contest winners of 12 of their last 14 and riding a five-game win streak.

They have swept the past two National League Central opponents they've faced and are in Houston facing a third division rival in four series, taking on an Astros squad that has seen far different results.

With Cincinnati taking the opener of the three-game set, 8-3, Houston has now lost seven straight and 20 of its last 22 games.

But the Reds aren't looking past anybody at this point, as they enter a tight division race with Pittsburgh down the stretch.

"I'm always looking for the perfect homestand, but perhaps we can have a perfect road trip," Reds manager Dusty Baker said after his club's 8-2 stint at home to start the second half. "Hopefully we can continue that and just keep playing good baseball. Don't overlook Houston and don't overlook Colorado, because they're formidable foes too. Especially at home, Houston has an excellent record at home."

The Astros hold a 24-22 record at home, which certainly qualifies as excellent when compared to their 10-41 showing on the road this season.

One of the most solid contributors to Houston's success at home as been rookie right-hander Lucas Harrell.

Harrell ranks first in the NL and fourth in the Majors in innings pitched as a rookie, tossing 114.2 so far this season while posting a 7-7 record and 4.24 ERA

In seven starts at home this year, Harrell is 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He is coming off one of his best outings of the season Thursday, despite receiving a loss.

Harrell tossed seven innings, allowing just one run and four hits, but fell victim of a one-hitter tossed by the Padres' Edinson Volquez.

"I felt like early I was locating pretty well, and I felt like as the game went on my other pitches kind of came in and I started using my changeup a little bit more in the later innings and I felt like it was pretty good," Harrell said. "Overall, I felt like I threw the ball pretty well and we played some great defense behind me."

Harrell will face off against Reds' starter Mike Leake, who has cooled off after five stellar starts in a row when he posted a 1.95 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.

Leake (3-6, 4.91 ERA) was knocked around by the D-backs for six runs in 5 1/3 innings Thursday. Leake is 3-4 with a 4.17 ERA lifetime against the Astros.

Reds: Arredondo available again
The Reds bullpen is back to full strength as right-hander Jose Arredondo returned to game action Monday night.

Arredondo was removed from Saturday's game against the Brewers after taking a ball off his right forearm in the seventh inning.

He showed some significant swelling in his arm on Sunday, but the 28-year-old reliever was the first man called upon from the bullpen Monday, pitching a hitless inning.

Reds relievers lead the Major Leagues with 19 relief victories and a 2.49 ERA.

Houston: Cordero sees old team in new home
Francisco Cordero is just getting settled into his new home but is already seeing some familiar faces.

Houston's newly acquired closer made his Astros debut Friday after being traded Thursday, and Monday's matchup with the Reds marked his first home game.

Cordero spent four years in Cincinnati, chalking up 150 saves there from 2008-11.

"[The Reds] have some new faces, but most of those guys were there when I was there," Cordero said. "I can do my own scouting report and go with it and try to get them out because they have some good hitters."

The 37-year-old didn't get a chance to face his old club Monday, but said he'll be prepared if he does get the call.

"It's going to be a little weird, but it's something that I'm ready for," Cordero said. "When they say my name in the bullpen, I'm going to have to be ready to come into the game and try to do my job."

• While many top-tier clubs wished they had more time to bolster their lineup before the Trade Deadline, the Astros are hoping July 31 comes faster than they expect.

Houston's roster has undergone some radical changes in the past month, with veterans Brett Myers, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and Carlos Lee all being traded for prospects.

The rest of the club is doing its best to remain focused on baseball in the final week before the Trade Deadline.

"Everyone's excited to get to the 31st and get this Trade Deadline in the past," said third baseman Chris Johnson. "Everybody's coming in here, guys are still trying to work hard and there's a lot of guys here trying to prove themselves."

Manager Brad Mills said he met with his squad in groups prior to Monday's game to help keep them focused on the task at hand.

"Guys are being sent down, guys are being called up and being traded," Mills said. "I have no control over that. They have no control over that, and that does not help us out in the field. I want to make sure our heads are in the right place when it comes to those things about making the plays, making the pitches, having quality at-bats and things of that nature."

Worth noting
• The Reds are now 6-2 without Joey Votto in the lineup and have averaged 4.25 runs per game in his absence.

• Astros catcher Jason Castro, who has been out since July 8 with right knee effusion, has been working out with a physical therapist in Houston and had his best day of rehab yet on Monday. Castro is set to meet with the club to establish a possible return date.

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