Mat Latos tossed five strong innings and the Reds pounded out 17 hits in an 8-3 victory over the Astros in the opener of a three-game set Monday at Minute Maid Park.
Latos (8-3) allowed just two runs on eight hits and two walks over five frames to earn the victory, while Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick each registered three hits, two RBI and two runs scored to help the Reds earn their fifth straight victory.
Cincinnati now owns a 1 1/2 game lead in the National League Central over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost to the Chicago Cubs earlier on Monday.
Wandy Rodriguez (7-9) absorbed the loss after giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts over six innings.
Chris Johnson tied a career-high with four base hits, but the Astros dropped their seventh straight game and have now lost 20 of their last 22 contests.
"We're trying not to believe in personal goals around here just trying to turn this thing around," remarked Johnson. "I'd rather take an 0-for and a win."
The Reds wasted little time getting to Rodriguez in the first as Drew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips each stroked one-out singles before Frazier followed two batters later with a two-out base hit to left to plate Stubbs for a 1-0 lead.
Cincinnati added to its lead in the third when Stubbs singled to start the frame, stole second, and scored on Ludwick's one-out double to center. Scott Rolen then worked a walk two batters later and Chris Heisey followed with a single to right to score Ludwick for a 3-0 advantage.
Houston battled back in the fifth as Jose Altuve singled and Marwin Gonzalez followed with a double. Scott Moore's groundout chased home Altuve before Johnson launched a double into center field to plate Gonzalez and trim the deficit to 3-2.
Latos appeared to injure himself on Gonzalez's double, but finished off the inning before being lifted for pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo in the sixth.
"He sprained his ankle. He overstrided on that one and you could tell," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of Latos. "We'll know more tomorrow but right now it looks like he's okay."
The Reds tacked on a run in the seventh when Frazier singled through the left side with one out and Rolen followed with a double into the right-field corner, allowing Frazier to score from first to make it a 4-2 game.
A single from Heisey put runners on second and third for Ryan Hanigan, who hit a grounder to Johnson at third. Johnson fired home to cut down Rolen at the plate, but Jay Bruce came on as a pinch-hitter and ripped a two-out single to right to plate Heisey and extend the Reds' lead to 5-2.
In the eighth, Phillips doubled, stole third and then crossed home on Ludwick's single to center. Ludwick then scored from first on Frazier's double to left before Hanigan added an RBI single three batters later to make it a six-run margin.
Gonzalez then added an RBI fielder's choice groundout in the bottom of the eighth to account for the final margin.
Latos improved to 4-1 in seven career starts against Houston...The Reds improved to 33-2 when Stubbs scores a run...Rodriguez fell to 9-9 in 26 career starts against the Reds...Houston went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 13 on base.