Backe sharp in four scoreless frames

Backe charp over four scoreless

REDS (ss) 5, ASTROS 4
at Sarasota, Fla.
March 11, 2008

Reds at the plate: Only one regular notched a hit in the game. It was Ryan Freel, who hit a leadoff single in the top of the fourth. Freel was erased in a double play. Alvin Colina capped a five-run ninth-inning rally with a three-run walk-off double.

Astros at the plate: Returning from a few days out with back spasms, Michael Bourn broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning with a first-pitch home run to right field. Two batters later, Hunter Pence sent a first-pitch homer over the left-field fence. In the fifth, Humberto Quintero laced an RBI single.

Reds on the mound: Ace Aaron Harang went five innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits. Harang, who retired the first nine batters in a row, walked none and struck out two with two homers allowed. David Weathers worked one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out one. Kent Mercker gave up a bunt single in his one scoreless inning.

Astros on the mound: Starter Brandon Backe pitched four scoreless innings with one hit and one walk allowed. Backe, who struck out two, retired the first nine in a row as well. Wesley Wright pitched a perfect fifth inning in relief.

Grapefruit League records: Reds 8-6; Astros 6-9.

Up next: The Astros will travel to Lakeland, Fla., to play the Tigers on Wednesday, beginning at 12:05 p.m. CT. Two veterans will take the hill during that game -- Houston's Woody Williams and Detroit lefty Kenny Rogers. Lance Berkman, who left Monday's game when his leg tightened up, is expected to play. Kaz Matsui likely will not be ready to rejoin the lineup but could be back by the end of the week.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.