Houston left-hander Fernando Abad was not about to chalk up Friday night's rough outing to inexperience.
"I know how to control those situations," a composed Abad said in Spanish after the Astros' 9-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. "Simply put, when you miss a pitch, if they miss, you're good, but if they get to it, you pay the price."
On this night, he missed a few.
Abad's latest outing lasted just 4 1-3 innings after the Reds roughed him up for six runs on nine hits, including two home runs.
"We tried to get him stretched out, but you know it's about executing pitches," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said of Abad. "I think that's our biggest problem, our command of the fastball, our breaking ball command. We're making mistakes, and right now we're not good enough to make mistakes."
Zack Cozart gave Cincinnati an early lead with a two-run homer in the second, and Jay Bruce hit a three-run drive in the fifth for the Reds, who stretched their win streak to four.
The Astros got back-to-back home runs by Fernando Martinez and Matt Dominguez in the third inning to tie the game at 2, but the effort fell well short of helping the team avoid its sixth consecutive defeat.
Brandon Phillips went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI, and right-hander Mike Leake struck out six over six strong innings for Cincinnati, which leads the majors in wins with 81 and at 34-14 boast the best record since the All-Star break.
"I missed on some breaking balls," said Abad, who picked up his second loss in as many outings.
Abad (0-2), who is making the transition after 81 major league appearances as a reliever, was making his first start since Aug. 25, when he went four innings in a 3-1 loss at the New York Mets.
Abad unraveled in the fourth. He allowed Cozart's double off the left-field wall to start the inning.
Bruce cleared the bases with his 28th home run of the season to make it 6-2.
"That fifth inning, I think I made some good pitches, but they had some luck on their side, and with Bruce, I did make a mistake," said Abad, who has started in the Dominican winter league. "That pitch sunk toward the middle of the plate, and he took advantage of it."
Abad singled in the second inning for his first major league hit.
Martinez crushed a curveball from Leake to the right-field upper deck to begin the bottom of the third after falling behind the count 2-0.
Dominguez, who went 3 for 4 in Thursday's loss to San Francisco, followed with his first major league home run, a towering shot to left field to tie the game.
"We were trying to give us a spark," Dominguez said of the back-to-back homers.
Dominguez said he plans to give the home run ball to his parents.
"It was awesome," Dominguez said. "To finally get one, it's kind of a relief to get it out of the way."
It was all the Astros would muster against Leake (7-8), who won his second straight in as many starts.
Miguel Cairo and Heisey drove in runs in the eighth for the Reds, both charged to Astros reliever Wesley Wright.
Brett Wallace doubled off Alfredo Simon and scored on a Jimmy Paredes sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning to get the Astros within six.
NOTES: Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker didn't rule out the possibility of Joey Votto rejoining the team this weekend. But Baker said he'd prefer Votto make his return from two surgical procedures on his left knee next week. Votto is currently on a rehabilitation assignment at Class-A Dayton. ... Houston traded OF Ben Francisco to Tampa Bay for a player to be named later during the game. ... Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez will be out indefinitely after an MRI showed a torn ligament in his left ankle, which he injured in Thursday's loss to the San Francisco Giants. DeFrancesco said Gonzalez will not require surgery.