HOUSTON -- Drew Stubbs bailed the Reds out for the second straight night.
With Cincinnati trailing by a run in the ninth and facing Astros closer Francisco Cordero, Stubbs drove in Xavier Paul and Brandon Phillips with a two-out double to give the Reds a one-run lead. Jay Bruce brought Stubbs home with a single and Aroldis Chapman finished off a 5-3 victory, the Reds' seventh in a row.
"It just feels like everything's clicking for us," Stubbs said. "If we get down, we come back. If we get out to a lead, we hold it. I think it's just a combination of us playing good baseball and getting the lucky bounces. That's the formula to winning a championship. I'm not saying at this point it's going to happen, but that's the type of stuff it takes to do it."
Cincinnati has won 14 of 16 games, 11 of 13 since the All-Star break. With the Pirates' victory on Wednesday afternoon, the Reds maintained their 2 1/2-game lead in the National League Central.
On Tuesday, Stubbs hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth off a slider from Cordero, the Reds' former closer. On Wednesday, Stubbs sent a fastball over the plate off the wall in center field.
"This team doesn't quit, and thank goodness for that," manager Dusty Baker said.
The Reds nearly wasted a strong start from Homer Bailey, born and raised 100 miles from Houston in La Grange, Texas. They held a 2-0 lead in the eighth after seven shutout innings from the right-hander, but the Astros made a charge.
After Jose Altuve scored on a Scott Moore double, J.D. Martinez doubled to deep left field off reliever Logan Ondrusek, scoring Moore from third base. A poor throw from Ryan Ludwick allowed Martinez to get to third, and a poor overthrow from Todd Frazier allowed Martinez to score and the Astros to grab a 3-2 lead.
"That eighth wasn't a very pretty inning," Baker said.
Ondrusek left the game after Martinez's double. He gave up three runs (two earned) and threw a wild pitch. Sean Marshall finished off the eighth.
But in the ninth, the Reds did some scoring of their own. Paul, pinch-hitting, led off with a double, and Phillips, also pinch-hitting, walked with one out. After Zack Cozart struck out, Stubbs' double to deep left field scored Paul and Phillips.
"Boy, that was a huge clutch hit," Baker said. "That was probably even bigger than last night's."
Bruce's single to right field scored Stubbs, giving the Reds a two-run advantage that held up after Chapman stranded a one-out double in the ninth for his 19th save.
Bailey allowed four hits and struck out seven in his seven innings. He now has a 2-0 record with a 0.41 ERA in three career starts in Houston despite the no-decision.
"He was making it tough on us," Martinez said. "I didn't feel like he made many mistakes, at least to me. I didn't get many pitches I thought I could hit, and he was tough."
In his last five starts this season, Bailey is 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA. His ERA is down to 3.53, the lowest it's been all season. Asked if anything has felt different in five starts in July, Bailey said he's been "fortunate."
"There's a lot of things that go into that," Bailey said.
The Astros had baserunners in every inning except the fourth, but Bailey escaped each with another zero on the scoreboard. He walked five batters, a season high and two more than he did in his first four starts in July combined. Bailey said his fastball command just wasn't there.
As most of the team heads to Colorado, Bailey will go to La Grange and relax.
"I can go rope tomorrow, go play with a new gun and play around with some toys," Bailey said. "It makes it pretty nice."
The Reds didn't get much off starter Bud Norris. After Devin Mesoraco led off the third inning with a single and Bailey bunted him over to second, Stubbs' RBI bloop double gave the Reds a 1-0 lead.
"We haven't been playing that well, really," Baker said. "We've been playing well enough to win, which is what we're here for."
Clark Goble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.