But the right-hander reverted back to old habits in front of 39,476 on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, and the Astros, accordingly, went home losers for the 11th time in 12 games.
Paulino (2-11) surrendered eight runs on nine hits and four walks in five innings against Cincinnati, never giving the Astros a chance in a 10-4 defeat. Laynce Nix set the tone for the Reds, driving in three runs in the first three innings, two of them on a towering home run.
"Even if you have a kid who throws 95-98 [mph], if you're not hitting your spots, it's not going to help you at all," Clark said.
Reds catcher Corky Miller, who entered the game hitting just .167, went 2-for-3 against Paulino, including a two-out, two-run double in the fifth that broke the game open and put the Reds up, 8-2.
"I put it on myself," Paulino said. "For four or five games I had been consistent, but today I was just never feeling well when I was delivering the ball, and that's why I made a lot of mistakes. Hitters ... will make you pay for that."
Paulino had been steadily improving before Saturday's loss, posting a 3.52 ERA in his four prior September starts.
"We think a lot of Paulino, but right now he's still in that learning process of learning how to pitch at this level," Clark said. "Sometimes he gets a little too amped and starts overthrowing it, and when he's like that, he's just a different guy."
Paulino took the loss despite the Astros giving him four runs of support. That snapped a bizarre skid in which Houston had gone 30 1/3 consecutive innings without scoring during Paulino's last seven starts.
The Reds have now beaten the Astros nine consecutive times.
Miguel Tejada and Hunter Pence both homered against Reds starter Justin Lehr, but each were only solo shots as the Astros never mounted a serious charge. Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman each hit into costly double plays in the first and fifth innings, respectively.
Tejada led the offense with four hits -- his fifth time to do that on the season -- while extending his hitting streak to 13 games.
"I'm happy for me, but obviously it would be a lot better if we were winning," Tejada said.
Pence's home run was his 25th of the season, tying a personal best and making him the first right fielder in Astros history to post consecutive seasons of at least 25 or more homers.
Doug Brocail came out of the bullpen and continued a string of strong performances for the Astros, throwing one shutout inning to extend his scoreless outings streak to 10. His ERA dropped to 2.87.
Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.