HOUSTON – Flamboyant Brandon Phillips has a way of stealing the spotlight, and even with Jay Bruce’s grand slam and 100th RBI and the Reds’ 10-0 victory over the Astros, he did it again Tuesday night.
Phillips, a three-time Gold Glove second baseman, outdid himself in the first inning when he made a backward, no-look, between-the-legs tag to put out Houston’s Jonathan Villar sliding into second base.
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When Villar hit a leadoff single to left center and tried to stretch it into a double, Phillips straddled the base and faced the outfield to take the throw. The throw arrived in plenty of time for Phillips to turn and make tag Villar; instead, Phillips stuck his glove through his legs and let Villar slide into it as Villar crashed head-first into Phillips' backside.
Phillips said he wasn't trying to showboat, and he initially didn't realize that Villar was coming.
"The crowd let me know that he was coming to second base," Phillips said. "I just had to quickly put the tag between my legs. That's the only reason I tagged him. If I didn't hear the crowd, I would have just caught it and looked around and he would have been safe."
However, he probably could have tagged him in a less showy way.
"That's me," he said with a laugh. "I do things off the wall, yes."
Reds manager Dusty Baker laughed when asked about the play.
"Ask Brandon," he said. "I think he gets bored sometimes."
Villar didn’t complain about being embarrassed.
"I'm aggressive. I was trying to make something happen, motivate my team. It's hard to change because that's the way I've always played," Villar said.
Bruce had five RBI and Mike Leake pitched eight scoreless innings in handing the Astros their 100th loss.
The home run was Bruce's 30th, giving him at least 30 homers in three straight seasons. It was his first grand slam since 2008.
Bruce reached a career high in RBI with No. 100.
"Thirty home runs is almost automatic if he stays healthy because that's his swing," manager Dusty Baker said. "But it was great to see him get his 100 RBIs, especially with the fact that he started off struggling in the RBI department.
"We had (Shin-Soo) Choo on all the time and we had Joey (Votto) on all the time and he had quite a few chances. Now he's cashing them in and hopefully it continues into the playoffs."
The Reds got to work early, with Zack Cozart driving in two runs in a four-run first inning.
Cincinnati was up by five in the fourth before Bruce's towering slam to the Crawford Boxes in left field pushed the lead to 9-0 and chased Jordan Lyles (7-8).
Leake (14-6) allowed five hits over eight innings and struck out six with two walks.
Sean Marshall, who hadn't pitched since May 20 because of shoulder tendinitis, threw a perfect ninth to complete the shutout.
The Reds are 4 1/2 games ahead of Washington for second NL wild card. In the NL Central race, the Reds are 2½ games behind first-place St. Louis and 1½ behind second-place Pittsburgh.
The Astros (51-100) are the first major league team to lose at least 100 games in three straight seasons since Kansas City from 2004-06.
"I'm always going to concentrate on the things we need to do to improve," Houston manager Bo Porter said when asked about losing 100 games. "I don't concern myself with what it is people are going to say. I concern myself about the men in that clubhouse and how we're going to get better every day."
NOTES: The series wraps up on Wednesday when Houston's Brad Peacock opposes Greg Reynolds. ... Votto extended his hitting streak at Minute Maid Park to 23 games, which is the longest by a player in the park's history.