First win meaningful for Williams
Houston native leads Astros to third straight over Reds
CINCINNATI -- At the risk of sounding sappy, it's safe to say Woody Williams waited his entire life to play for the Houston Astros.
But once he became an Astro, the Houston native probably never imagined it would take this long for him to get his first win.
In his eighth start of the year, Williams finally logged win No. 1 as the Astros topped the Reds, 3-2, before 16,278 fans on a clear Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park. The win arrived nearly six months after he signed a two-year deal with Houston, a team he grew up rooting for but had to wait until age 40 to finally put on the uniform.
"It's nice, no doubt," Williams said. "I can't lie to you. It's a good feeling. Obviously, anytime you win it's nice, but to have the Astros uniform on, it's very special to me."
Williams held the Reds to two runs over 6 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out three. He also drove in his own game-winner, singling off Matt Belisle in the fourth to drive in Adam Everett.
Williams struggled early, walking the bases loaded during a 27-pitch first frame that he escaped when Josh Hamilton grounded out to end the inning.
"[The first inning] was tough, and I was worried about how much it was going to take out of me," Williams said. "Especially just coming from the bullpen, the first inning's always crucial. Luckily, I didn't give up any runs. Adam made a good play to retire Hamilton, who the last time I pitched here did some damage against me. It was nice to get out of the first inning."
Williams said as the game progressed, he began to get a feel for his changeup. He was touched for two runs in the third when Brandon Phillips led off with a triple and scored on Adam Dunn's home run to right, but the veteran right-hander limited the Reds to one hit and a walk for the remainder of his outing.
"I just went with it," Williams said. "I was able to get quick outs and keep guys in the dugout instead of on the field, like I had been in the past."
"He obviously struggled the first couple of innings, but then found a groove and did a nice job," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "He got us deep in the ballgame. I think he changed his game just a little bit as he went on, which is a good thing. He got results for it. And then he decided to take matters into his own hands and drive in the winning run."
"We didn't score that many runs again for him, but it was good to see him drive in the game-winning RBI," Lance Berkman said. "If the pitchers don't take care of themselves, we can't be responsible for them."
Berkman, the resident team jokester, was kidding about that last part. Berkman is never at a loss for one-liners, but it's understandable if he's even more jovial these days.
After all, he appears to be working his way out of the slump that plagued him for the entire first month of the season. And he's doing it in the city where he's had the most success -- Cincinnati, where he's clubbed 15 home runs at Great American Ball Park, more than any other visiting player.
No. 15 arrived Wednesday. Morgan Ensberg reached on an error by third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, and Berkman followed with his fifth homer of the year, giving the Astros a 2-0 lead.
"When [Encarnacion] makes the error, to be honest with you, I'm thinking, [Belisle] punched me out the first time with a runner in scoring position and here we go again," Berkman said. "Just try to have a better at-bat."
Dan Wheeler has recorded a save in all three wins this week against the Reds, and Brad Lidge also has caught Garner's eye. On Wednesday, Lidge faced four batters and retired the heart of the Cincinnati order in the eighth to preserve the Astros' slim lead.
"A beautiful job by Lidge," Garner said. "He didn't let them get any momentum at all. He just slammed the door, and so did Wheeler -- nicely done."
"I really do feel right now that I'm throwing the ball as good as I have my entire career," said Lidge, who hasn't allowed a run in 13 of his last 15 outings. "I'll continue to stay aggressive and go after guys. It's what I've always done in the past when I felt real good."
The Astros have topped the Reds by one run in every game of the series.
"I don't know how we're doing it," Berkman said. "It seems like we're staggering around to these victories. If you can win three one-run games like that in a row, it's not easy on the nerves, but it looks good in the win-loss column."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.